New York United Church of Christ Condemns Religious Violence in India, Urges Sanctions and Global Solidarity

At its meeting on June 1, 2024, in Binghampton, NY, the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCCNY) unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the violence against religious minorities in India, including Christians and Muslims. This marks the first such resolution by any UCC denomination, coming soon after a similar resolution by the United Methodist General Conference in April 2024.

The resolution begins by highlighting the dire situation in Manipur, where over 40,000 people have been displaced, 250 churches and 1,700 homes destroyed, and 120 people killed due to Hindu nationalist policies endorsed by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Rev. Dr. Marsha Williams, Conference Minister and Ecumenical Officer, emphasized the importance of addressing the root causes of this suffering, stating, “We want to publicly care for Christians and not only Christians, but other religious minorities who are suffering, and look at the root causes of that suffering in the Indian subcontinent. That should matter to every congregation in New York and around the nation.”

In a show of solidarity, the UCCNY resolved to support organizations like the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), Religions for Peace USA, Ecumenical Partners in Outreach, and the United Methodist General Conference. Williams further explained, “This is a call to draw the circle wide. It is our business to care about what happens around the globe and not just close to home. We need to take God out of the box. God is doing far more than what we’re imagining.”

The resolution specifically distinguishes between mainstream Hinduism and Hindutva, the latter being a form of Hindu nationalism which it addresses. It calls for India to be designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) due to its systematic, ongoing, and severe violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Additionally, it condemns the continuous violations of religious freedoms and advocates for the human rights of all religious communities in India.

Further actions outlined in the resolution include urging U.S. representatives and the Biden administration to impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom, including freezing their assets. The resolution also encourages UCCNY church members to contact their Congressional representatives to bring these violations to the attention of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Department of State, and the wider society.

Rev. Martha Koenig Stone, speaking on behalf of the UCC’s Commission On Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, emphasized the necessity of international pressure to effect policy changes that harm vulnerable populations in India. She stated, “It is time to apply international pressure to demand a change in policies that demonize and target vulnerable people in India because we are in relationship with them. Just as we cannot stand for continued violence against Palestinians and reject any form of violence against Jews and Muslims, we must speak alongside others who are speaking for those who are oppressed. That conviction to address unjust policies is at the heart of our Christian faith because we care for the whole planet.”

Rev. Neal Christie, Executive Director of FIACONA, praised the UCC for its stance. “The UCC has taken a courageous step in raising awareness about the harm done by Hindu nationalist ideologies and policies in the U.S. and in India. The UCC has said that religion should not be weaponized. We stand with them in holding members of the U.S. Congress and the Biden Administration accountable for their role in allowing systemic harm to people simply because of the God they worship and the communities they belong to,” Christie said.

Rev. Prabhu Sigamani of the Farmingville UCC and director for the NY Conference, commented on the broader implications of the resolution. “The prosperity of a nation is determined by the well-being of all people, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, gender, and socio-economic status,” Sigamani stated. He added, “A nation can pride itself when its weakest community members are safe and secure, thereby experiencing liberty to the fullest extent without the fear of persecution. The fundamentals of all religions teach us love and forgiveness. Now can be the time for healing. I am urging the leaders to take action to stop the violence. As our prayers are ascending for your safety and peace, we believe that the blessings of Jesus Christ will descend so that there is peace and harmony.”

This resolution from the UCCNY highlights the critical need for global attention to religious freedom violations and the necessity of concerted international efforts to support oppressed religious minorities in India. Through its solidarity with various organizations and its call for political action, the UCCNY aims to foster a more just and peaceful world, reflecting the core values of their faith.

Biden Unveils Israeli-Led Peace Plan: Roadmap to Ceasefire and Hostage Release

President Biden has unveiled a pivotal Israeli-led initiative aimed at ending the ongoing conflict and securing the release of all remaining hostages held since October 7. The proposal outlines a three-stage roadmap, marking a significant step towards potential resolution between Israel and Hamas.

In a press briefing, President Biden emphasized the extensive diplomatic efforts undertaken by his team, including numerous discussions with leaders from Israel, Qatar, Egypt, and other regional stakeholders. He described Israel’s comprehensive proposal as a pathway to a sustainable ceasefire and the liberation of all captives. Although the proposal has been relayed to Hamas through Qatar, formal acceptance from the Gaza-based organization is pending.

“This is truly a decisive moment,” remarked President Biden, urging Hamas to seize the opportunity for peace by endorsing the deal. He also called upon the Israeli populace to support the initiative, highlighting the significant blows dealt to Hamas during the conflict, rendering a recurrence of October 7 unlikely.

Acknowledging potential dissent within Israel, particularly from factions advocating for prolonged military engagement, President Biden cautioned against perpetuating the war indefinitely. He stressed the imperative of prioritizing the release of hostages and embracing the proposed ceasefire as a means to avert further bloodshed.

Senior administration officials elaborated on the proposal’s phased approach, spanning approximately six weeks for each stage. Phase one entails a ceasefire period coupled with humanitarian efforts to alleviate the plight of Gazans, including infrastructure rehabilitation and provision of essential services.

The subsequent phase focuses on the release of remaining hostages and the permanent cessation of hostilities, accompanied by the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza’s populated areas. Negotiations will be pivotal in navigating the transition to this stage, with provisions in place to extend the ceasefire if required.

Phase three envisions a comprehensive reconstruction program spanning three to five years, supported by the U.S. and the international community. This initiative aims to address the long-term stabilization and rehabilitation of Gaza.

The proposal’s announcement follows previous ceasefire negotiations that ended without a resolution. Concurrently, Israeli military operations persist in certain areas, prompting concerns about civilian casualties and the escalation of violence.

President Biden emphasized his enduring commitment to Israel and underscored the urgency of seizing the current opportunity for peace. He reiterated his longstanding advocacy for a two-state solution and expressed optimism that the proposed roadmap could pave the way for such a resolution in the future.

India’s NHRC Faces Scrutiny: Upholding Human Rights Standards Amidst Accreditation Challenges

**Enhancing Human Rights Oversight: India’s NHRC in Focus**

The establishment of the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) in accordance with the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA) was a significant step towards safeguarding human rights within the nation. Enacted on 28th September 1993, the PHRA delineates the framework for the constitution of the NHRC, State Human Rights Commissions, and Human Rights Courts, with the aim of bolstering human rights protection and related matters.

According to Section 2(d) of the PHRA, human rights encompass “the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.” These international covenants, as defined in Section 2(f), include agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966.

The PHRA also outlines the functions of the NHRC in Section 12, affirming its role in upholding human rights standards. Furthermore, the Central Government has the authority to notify additional covenants or conventions aimed at strengthening civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, aligning with international norms endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.

The NHRC’s accreditation status holds immense significance in the global human rights landscape. The commission attained ‘A’ status accreditation from the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in 1999, indicating full compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) principles and the 1993 ‘Paris Principles’. The accreditation process, conducted every five years, involves rigorous review and peer assessment to ensure adherence to international standards.

India’s retention of ‘A’ status accreditation through successive reviews until 2017 underscored its commitment to human rights values. The accreditation not only facilitates India’s active participation in UN forums but also enhances its credibility on the global stage. However, recent developments have raised concerns regarding NHRC’s autonomy and effectiveness in addressing human rights violations.

The denial of ‘A’ status accreditation in the latest review held on May 1, 2024, signals a critical juncture for the NHRC. Issues such as transparency in member appointments, the presence of police officers in human rights investigations, and inadequate gender and minority representation have been cited as areas needing improvement. These shortcomings challenge the commission’s ability to uphold the ‘Paris Principles’ and maintain independence from governmental influence.

The inclusion of Manusmriti references in NHRC’s official brochure has sparked controversy due to its conflicting principles with constitutional values. While Manusmriti offers insights into ancient Indian literature, its endorsement by the NHRC raises concerns about religious bias and undermines the commission’s credibility in promoting modern human rights concepts.

To address these challenges, the NHRC must heed the recommendations of international bodies like the OHCHR and GANHRI, focusing on enhancing transparency, independence, and accountability. Additionally, proactive measures from state and central governments, along with judicial intervention, are essential to uphold human rights standards and restore India’s reputation in the global human rights arena.

Bolstering the NHRC’s functionality is imperative for advancing human rights in India and restoring the nation’s standing in the international community. By aligning its practices with constitutional values and international norms, the NHRC can play a pivotal role in ensuring justice, equality, and dignity for all individuals.

Russia and India to Begin Talks on Visa-Free Group Tourism in June, Agreement Expected by Year-End

The initial discussions between Russia and India regarding the establishment of a visa-free group tourist exchange are set to commence in June, with the expectation of finalizing a bilateral agreement by the end of the year. This information was disclosed by Nikita Kondratyev, the Director of the Russian Economic Development Ministry’s Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects, to the Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik.

“The process with group visa-free trips has moved a little. The Indian side returned with the answer that they are at the final stage of internal state coordination and asked us again for the latest draft of the document and promised to return in the very near future. I think we will hold the first consultations with them in June to discuss a draft agreement,” Kondratyev stated at the International Economic Forum ‘Russia–Islamic World: Kazan Forum 2024’ held in Kazan.

He further added, “We plan to sign by the end of the year.”

Previously, the ministry had indicated that it anticipates initiating visa-free tourist exchanges with India in 2024, following the precedents set by similar agreements with China and Iran.

On August 1, 2023, Russia and China commenced a visa-free group tourist exchange under an intergovernmental agreement. Simultaneously, a visa-free group tourist exchange between Russia and Iran also began on the same date.

ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants for Hamas Leader and Israeli PM Netanyahu Over War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is pursuing arrest warrants for Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the October 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent conflict in Gaza. This announcement was made by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan during an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Khan revealed that the ICC’s prosecution team is also seeking warrants for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as two other prominent Hamas leaders — Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, known as Mohammed Deif, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader. The targeting of Israeli officials marks a significant moment, as it is the first time the ICC has sought to arrest the top leader of a US ally. This decision places Netanyahu alongside figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin and the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, both of whom faced ICC arrest warrants for alleged war crimes.

Issuing arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders in the same action could attract criticism, potentially equating a terror organization with an elected government. A panel of ICC judges will now evaluate Khan’s application for the warrants.

Khan outlined the charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh, and al-Masri, which include “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape, and sexual assault in detention.” He highlighted the horrific events of October 7, stating, “The world was shocked… when people were ripped from their bedrooms, from their homes, from the different kibbutzim in Israel… people have suffered enormously.” On that day, Hamas militants killed approximately 1,200 people across southern Israel and took around 250 hostages into Gaza. Many of these hostages remain captive, with Khan noting that crimes continue to be committed against “so many innocent Israelis… that are held hostage by Hamas and families that are waiting for their return.”

Khan emphasized that his team has substantial evidence to support the arrest warrants, including authenticated video footage, photographs, and testimonies from eyewitnesses and survivors. While acknowledging Israel’s right to rescue hostages, Khan stressed, “you must do so by complying with the law.”

In response, Hamas condemned the ICC’s move, stating it “strongly condemns the attempts of the ICC Prosecutor to equate victims with aggressors by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders without legal basis.” Hamas also urged the ICC to issue warrants against “all war criminals among the occupation leaders, officers, and soldiers who participated in crimes against the Palestinian people.”

The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant are similarly severe, including “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.” Khan remarked, “The fact that Hamas fighters need water doesn’t justify denying water from all the civilian population of Gaza.”

The conflict has resulted in devastating casualties in Gaza, with over 35,500 Palestinians killed and more than 79,000 wounded since October 7, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, though CNN could not independently verify these figures. Netanyahu denounced the ICC’s decision as “a political outrage,” vowing, “They will not deter us and we will continue in the war until the hostages are released and Hamas is destroyed.”

Other Israeli officials echoed Netanyahu’s condemnation. Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, criticized Khan’s decision, asserting that Israel fights “with one of the strictest moral codes in history, while complying with international law and boasting a robust independent judiciary.” He described the comparison between Israel’s leaders and Hamas as “a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy,” labeling the prosecutors’ decision as “a crime of historic proportion.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid also rebuked the application for arrest warrants, calling it “a complete moral failure.” He stated, “We cannot accept the outrageous comparison between Netanyahu and Sinwar… We will not remain silent.” Israel’s President Isaac Herzog called the decision “beyond outrageous.”

Netanyahu had previously declared that any ICC arrest warrants against senior Israeli officials would be “an outrage of historic proportions,” insisting that Israel’s independent legal system rigorously investigates all legal violations. In response to these comments, Khan stated, “Nobody is above the law,” urging Israel to challenge the ICC’s jurisdiction in court if it disagreed.

Although Israel and the United States are not ICC members, the court claims jurisdiction over Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank since Palestinian leaders accepted the court’s founding principles in 2015. This latest announcement is separate from an ongoing case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where South Africa has accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians.

This is not the first ICC action involving Israel; in March 2021, Khan’s office launched an investigation into possible crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank since June 2014. The ICC, located in The Hague and established by the Rome Statute, operates independently with 124 member countries. Should the court grant the arrest warrants, any member country would be obliged to arrest and extradite the individuals to The Hague. This could significantly limit Netanyahu and Gallant’s international travel, including to countries closely allied with Israel.

Sinwar, Haniyeh, and al-Masri, designated as global terrorists by the US, face travel bans, asset freezes, and sanctions. Hamas as an organization is similarly designated by several countries, including the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, and the European Union, which imposes sanctions on its leaders.

Indian-American Lawmakers Advocate Constructive Dialogue on Human Rights with India

Indian-American lawmakers reaffirmed on Thursday their commitment to addressing human rights issues in India with its leadership but cautioned that lecturing New Delhi is counterproductive. They advocated for a constructive dialogue on these concerns.

“India was colonized for over 100 years,” said Congressman Ro Khanna, speaking to the Indian American community during the ‘Desi Decides’ Summit of Indian American Impact. “When discussing human rights with figures like External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, you have to understand that just coming in from the perspective of lecturing India… it is not going to be productive.”

Khanna, who co-chairs the Congressional India Caucus, was joined by Indian American lawmakers Shri Thanedar, Pramila Jayapal, and Dr. Ami Bera. The panel discussion, moderated by ABC national correspondent Zohreen Shah, addressed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relationship with the Muslim community.

“Having a conversation saying, here are the imperfections in our democracy, what are the imperfections in your democracy, and how do we collectively advance democracy and human rights, I think is a more constructive approach,” Khanna said.

Bera agreed with Khanna’s approach, emphasizing the importance of India maintaining its secular identity. “If India loses its secular nature, it changes who she is as a country and how the rest of the world views it,” he said. Bera drew a distinction between Modi’s leadership and a potential Trump presidency in the U.S., underscoring the resilience of American democracy. “Because we still have a vibrant democracy here. We have a vibrant opposition party in the Democratic Party. We still believe in the freedom of the press and those are all things that I worry about for India’s future.”

Bera expressed concerns about press freedom and the state of opposition in India. “You’re not really seeing a viable opposition party or it’s being dismantled. The vibrant democracy has to have all of those things, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the ability to push back. I hope you don’t ever see a second Trump presidency. But if that were to happen, you will see our democracy survive the first time, push back, and our democracy will survive. I certainly hope India’s democracy survives.”

Jayapal concurred with both Bera and Khanna, emphasizing the importance of addressing imperfections both in the U.S. and globally. “The only thing I would add is that I think we have to be able to critique our own country’s imperfections and any other country’s imperfections. That’s actually our job in Congress. We shouldn’t lecture, I agree with Ro (Khanna). But we do have to think about all of the United States’ interests. That is economic, for sure. India is an important partner for us. It’s an important partner because of other regional dynamics as well and global dynamics.”

She stressed that holding India accountable does not contradict the U.S. values of promoting human rights and democracy. “It is also important for us to think about our values. Just like we criticize the Chinese government for the treatment of Uyghurs or any other country in the world, we have to be able to also look at what’s happening in India and call attention to it.”

Jayapal shared her personal experiences facing criticism for her stance on these issues. “I know that I have been called a bad Indian and all kinds of other things for raising these. But I would just say I’m not backing away from that because those are the values of the United States. Those are my values. I don’t think it means that you don’t appreciate or like or want a partnership between India and the United States to raise legitimate concerns about freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and all of the other things that we are seeing in India any more than if we raise it here it means somehow that we’re bad Americans. No, that is our job to be moving towards a more perfect union in the United States and with all of our global partnerships.”

Thanedar emphasized the strategic importance of a robust India-U.S. relationship, particularly in countering Chinese aggression. “We need a strong US-India relationship. India historically has been playing both sides, Russia and US. But it’s time for India to commit to a strong friendship with the United States, and that’s something that I want to work on. The United States has to recognize India’s power, its economic power, and India remains the best solution to counteract China’s aggression. So, I’m just working on a strong India-US relationship.”

Indian-American lawmakers are urging a balanced approach to discussing human rights with India, one that recognizes the historical context and promotes mutual democratic values. They stress the importance of maintaining a strong bilateral relationship while addressing issues like press freedom and secularism.

Ro Khanna Advocates Constructive Dialogue for India-US Relations, Speculation Arises on Presidential Run

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna emphasized the importance of constructive dialogue over admonishment in bolstering relations between India and the United States. Speaking at the Desis Decide summit, Khanna addressed recent criticisms voiced by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar regarding Western attempts to lecture India on human rights issues.

Reflecting on India’s colonial history, Khanna stressed the necessity of approaching discussions with sensitivity. “India was colonized for over 100 years,” Khanna remarked, cautioning against a patronizing attitude. “When we’re having a conversation about human rights… you have to understand… just coming in from a perspective of lecturing India is not going to be productive.”

Khanna advocated for a collaborative approach, suggesting that acknowledging mutual imperfections in democracy and human rights could lead to progress. He urged for a shift in the US government’s strategy when addressing Indian leadership.

Agreeing with Khanna’s sentiments, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal highlighted the multifaceted nature of US interests, encompassing economic and geopolitical considerations. She emphasized the importance of holding all nations accountable for human rights violations while maintaining diplomatic relationships.

Congressman Shri Thanedar echoed the call for a robust India-US alliance, emphasizing India’s strategic significance in countering global challenges, particularly China’s assertiveness. Thanedar urged for a commitment from India to strengthen ties with the United States.

Turning to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Khanna expressed optimism about the prospects of a two-state solution under the Biden administration. He referenced a 1990 law that could impede US support for Palestine’s UN membership and anticipated a more nuanced approach from President Biden.

During a panel discussion, speculation arose about Khanna’s potential presidential candidacy, met with laughter from the congressman himself. When asked about the timeline for an Indian-American president, panelists offered varying predictions, with Dr. Bera suggesting it could happen within a decade, Jayapal expressing optimism for a swifter timeline, and Thanedar boldly asserting it could occur within four years.

Pope Francis Calls for Urgent Global Action on Climate Resilience at Vatican Summit

On the morning of Thursday, May 16th, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis addressed participants of a summit on “From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience,” organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Here is a paraphrase of his speech, preserving the original quotes.

Pope Francis welcomed members of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences, as well as the mayors and governors from around the world who attended the summit. He acknowledged the growing severity of climate change and the urgent need for action to protect people and nature, commending the Academies for their leadership and efforts in drafting a universal document on resilience.

He highlighted the plight of the world’s poor, who contribute the least to environmental pollution but suffer the most. “The destruction of the environment is an offense against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst, and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations” (Address to COP28, Dubai, 2 December 2023). The Pope urged everyone to choose sustainable human development and heed the cry of the earth, the plea of the poor, and the aspirations of the young and children.

Pope Francis emphasized the interconnectedness of climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental decay, global disparities, food insecurity, and threats to human dignity. He warned that without urgent collective action, these issues pose existential threats to humanity, other living beings, and ecosystems. The Pope pointed out that the world’s poor suffer disproportionately despite contributing the least to these problems. Wealthier nations, representing about one billion people, produce more than half of the heat-trapping pollutants, while the poorest three billion people contribute less than 10% yet suffer 75% of the damage. He noted that 46 of the least developed countries, mostly in Africa, account for only 1% of global CO2 emissions, whereas G20 nations are responsible for 80%.

Research presented at the summit revealed the tragic fact that women and children bear a disproportionate burden. Women often lack the same access to resources as men, and their roles in household maintenance and childcare can prevent them from migrating during disasters. However, women also play a crucial role in resilience and adaptation. Nearly one billion children live in countries highly susceptible to climate-related disasters, making them particularly vulnerable to the physical and psychological impacts of climate change.

Pope Francis condemned the failure to protect the most vulnerable from human-caused climate change, calling it a serious offense and a grave violation of human rights. He criticized the pursuit of short-term profits by polluting industries and the spread of disinformation that hinders collective efforts for change. “Brothers and sisters, the road ahead is uphill and not without danger,” he said, noting the summit’s data showing that climate change affects all aspects of life, including water, air, food, and energy systems, as well as public health and welfare. He lamented the forced migration of communities and families due to climate change, with atmospheric pollution causing millions of premature deaths annually. Over 3.5 billion people live in areas highly susceptible to climate devastation, driving them to migrate. Defending the dignity and rights of climate migrants involves upholding the sacredness of each human life and respecting the divine command to care for our common home.

In response to the planetary crisis, the Pope called for a universal approach and rapid, decisive action to effect changes and political decisions. He stressed the need to halve the rate of global warming within a quarter-century, aim for global decarbonization, and eliminate dependence on fossil fuels. Additionally, he urged the elimination of large quantities of carbon dioxide through a multigenerational environmental management program, highlighting nature’s regenerative powers. He advocated for the protection of natural resources like the Amazon and Congo basins, peat bogs, mangroves, oceans, coral reefs, farmlands, and glacial icecaps for their role in reducing global carbon emissions.

The Pope emphasized a holistic approach to combat climate change, addressing the dual crises of biodiversity loss and inequality by nurturing ecosystems that sustain life. He called for cooperation and global solidarity, highlighting the need for a coordinated effort involving emissions reduction, lifestyle education, innovative financing, and nature-based solutions to reinforce resilience, particularly to drought.

Finally, Pope Francis urged the development of a new financial architecture to meet the needs of the global South and island states severely affected by climate catastrophes. He advocated for debt restructuring and reduction, alongside the creation of a new global financial charter by 2025, recognizing an “ecological debt.” “We must work

on this term: ecological debt,” he emphasized, suggesting that acknowledging and addressing it can significantly aid in mitigating climate change.

The Pope expressed gratitude for the participants’ efforts and encouraged continued collaboration to transition from the current climate crisis to climate resilience, emphasizing equality and social justice. He stressed the urgency, compassion, and determination required for this task, as the stakes could not be higher. Pope Francis concluded his speech by blessing the attendees, assuring them of his prayers, and requesting their prayers for him.

President Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel Amid Gaza Crisis, Signals Shift in US-Israel Relations

President Joe Biden made a significant move this week that shook up a key global relationship. During a TV interview, he responded to a question about Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah by stating, “I’m not supplying the weapons.” This statement marked a departure from the long-standing tradition of arms shipments being central to the US-Israel alliance. It was the first time in forty years such a crack had appeared. Biden faced pressure from both domestic and international fronts to prevent further civilian casualties and alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Consequently, he took the unprecedented step of withholding arms shipments to Israel, a move not seen since President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Aaron David Miller, a former State Department analyst, noted Biden’s reluctance to take actions that might harm the US-Israel relationship but highlighted a shift in Biden’s stance due to concerns about Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah.

Israel’s announcement of ground forces beginning “targeted activity” in Rafah, coupled with the looming threat of a full-scale invasion, prompted Biden’s decision. The situation in Rafah had led to over 100,000 people fleeing the fighting, facing dire shortages of basic necessities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on launching a full ground invasion exacerbated concerns, despite Washington’s urging for a more targeted approach against Hamas in Rafah.

Biden’s primary concern was de-escalating the conflict and avoiding a crisis with neighboring Egypt while minimizing divisions within the Democratic Party. The temporary halt in arms shipments, including high payload weapons like 2,000-pound bombs and JDAM kits, reflected Biden’s attempt to signal his concerns about the situation in Rafah. However, the impact of this pause on Israel’s military capabilities was deemed inconsequential by some experts.

Nonetheless, Biden’s move sparked strong reactions, with Republicans condemning it as outrageous and a sign of weakness, while Democrats viewed it as a necessary step to address humanitarian concerns. The rift between Biden and Netanyahu comes at a critical juncture in ceasefire negotiations, with disagreements over Hamas’ demands for a permanent end to the war.

The longstanding relationship between Biden and Netanyahu has been characterized by turbulence, with occasional praise from Netanyahu but frequent disagreements over Palestinian policy. Despite historical support for Israel, Biden’s recent actions signal a potential shift in US-Israel relations. Netanyahu’s defiant response to Biden’s move underscores his willingness to resist US pressure, while Democratic senators emphasize the importance of minimizing civilian casualties in any military action by Israel.

US Denies Meddling in India’s Elections Amid Accusations, Refrains from Comment on Assassination Plot Investigation

The United States has firmly denied any involvement in India’s Lok Sabha elections, asserting a consistent approach of non-interference in electoral processes globally.

“In India, as elsewhere in the world, we maintain a policy of non-involvement in elections. These decisions rest solely with the Indian people,” remarked Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US State Department, during a press briefing in Washington on Thursday.

Miller’s remarks came in response to queries regarding accusations made by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, who alleged on Wednesday that the US was seeking to disrupt India’s Lok Sabha elections by issuing baseless claims regarding religious freedom threats within the nation.

Furthermore, when pressed for comment on the ongoing investigation concerning an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the US State Department representative declined to engage, citing the sensitivity of the legal proceedings.

“There is an indictment publicly available which presents alleged facts. However, these remain allegations until substantiated in a court of law. As this is an ongoing legal matter, I refrain from discussing it further,” Miller stated.

In essence, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to non-interference in India’s democratic processes, reiterating that electoral decisions ultimately reside within the purview of the Indian populace. Additionally, the State Department opted for cautious silence regarding the ongoing legal investigation, emphasizing the importance of due process.

UN Resolution Advances Palestinian Membership Amidst Global Debate

The United Nations passed a resolution in support of Palestinian membership, marking a significant step in granting new privileges to the Palestinian Authority as a non-member observer state. With a decisive majority of 143 votes in favor, the resolution gained traction despite objections from nine nations including Czechia, Hungary, Argentina, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Israel, and the United States.

Proposed by the United Arab Emirates, the resolution urges the UN Security Council to reconsider Palestinian membership favorably, affirming that “The State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations.” Emotions ran high as over 100 national representatives expressed their views on the resolution, with many voicing support for Palestinian statehood regardless of their voting stance.

Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour passionately addressed the assembly before the vote, highlighting the dire situation in Gaza and expressing gratitude to global demonstrators. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz criticized the resolution, denouncing it as unjust and accusing the UN of bias.

Although a General Assembly vote cannot grant UN membership, the approved resolution grants the Palestinian Authority new rights and privileges. While unable to vote, they can now sit among member states, submit proposals, co-sponsor initiatives, make statements, and request items for the UN’s agenda. Mansour announced plans to seek full membership from the Security Council, a move anticipated to face US opposition.

Following the vote, US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood criticized the resolution, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive peace solution in the Middle East. He stressed the importance of Gaza not being a haven for terrorism and advocated for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, condemned resolution supporters, accusing them of promoting terrorism and undermining the UN charter. He symbolically shredded a piece of the charter during his impassioned speech. UN spokesman Farhan Haq later defended the charter’s integrity, asserting the organization’s commitment to upholding it.

The Palestinian Authority’s journey toward UN recognition has seen significant developments since its failed bid for independent membership in 2011. In 2012, its status evolved from a “non-member observer entity” to a “non-member observer state,” akin to the Vatican’s status at the UN.

U.S. State Department Report Suggests Potential Israeli Violations in Gaza Conflict: Review Sparks Debate on Policy Shifts

A recent assessment from the U.S. State Department suggests that Israel may have breached international humanitarian law during its military actions in Gaza, though the report refrains from making definitive judgments about Israeli conduct in its conflict with Hamas.

The Biden administration initiated this review of Israel and six other nations receiving U.S. arms. While facing criticism domestically and internationally, this evaluation does not mandate any specific responses.

The report reflects a growing level of scrutiny towards Israel within the administration, coupled with frustration over its handling of the conflict. Despite this, President Biden maintains his support for Israel’s efforts to combat Hamas in Gaza.

The investigation focused on two main inquiries: whether Israel misused U.S. weapons in violation of international law and whether it hindered humanitarian aid.

Regarding the former, the report stated, “It is reasonable to assess that [U.S.] defense articles … have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [International Humanitarian Law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.” Although numerous instances of civilian casualties in Israeli airstrikes raised serious concerns, conclusive evidence was lacking.

Palestinian health officials claim that over 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have died in Gaza, while Israel asserts it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters.

On the matter of humanitarian aid, the report initially criticized Israel for impeding aid efforts, but acknowledged subsequent cooperation. However, recent disruptions at the Rafah border crossing have severely impacted aid delivery.

The Biden administration’s decision to withhold a shipment of over 3,000 large bombs to Israel indicates a shift in approach, though it is unlikely to significantly affect Israeli operations in Gaza.

While the U.S. supports Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas in Rafah, it opposes a full-scale assault due to concerns about civilian casualties. The lack of a credible plan to protect civilians in Rafah is a point of contention.

A national security memorandum issued in February mandated the report, prompted by congressional Democrats’ concerns about potential violations of international law.

Although the report does not legally obligate the U.S. to cease arms transfers, it may influence future policy decisions. However, analysts doubt significant changes will occur, noting President Biden’s reluctance to alter his stance on Rafah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his resistance to external pressure, including from the White House, highlighting potential challenges in U.S.-Israel relations.

The report raises questions about how President Biden will manage his relationship with Netanyahu, particularly regarding Gaza. Despite threats of policy adjustments, little substantive change has materialized, leaving uncertainty about the administration’s red lines.

President Biden’s Warning to Israel: A Delicate Balancing Act in Gaza

President Biden’s firm stance against a significant Israeli military operation in Rafah has put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a difficult position. Launching a major offensive to crush Hamas in southern Gaza risks rupturing ties with the U.S., while failure to act decisively could weaken Netanyahu’s domestic political coalition.

According to White House national security communications adviser John Kirby, the U.S. acknowledges Israel’s need to make its own decisions regarding military actions. However, Biden made it clear that a major invasion of Rafah would prompt significant consequences, including withholding offensive arms transfers to Israel.

Biden’s warning comes amid growing criticism of Israel’s military conduct, particularly concerning civilian casualties in Gaza. Despite emphasizing support for Israel’s security, Biden stated that the U.S. opposes Israel’s ability to wage war in civilian areas.

Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s readiness to confront Hamas in Rafah independently, irrespective of U.S. warnings. Meanwhile, opposition leader Benny Gantz stressed Israel’s duty to defend itself, underscoring the U.S.’s obligation to support Israel’s security.

While some Israeli leaders criticized Biden’s stance, Netanyahu has shown a degree of compliance with U.S. demands behind closed doors. However, he faces pressure from his right-wing base, necessitating a delicate balancing act.

Despite Biden’s frustration over Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, his administration aims to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and negotiate a ceasefire to end the conflict. A key aspect of Biden’s Middle East strategy involves brokering a deal for Saudi Arabia to normalize ties with Israel, contingent upon ending the Gaza war.

Saudi Arabia insists on a pathway to a Palestinian state before establishing relations with Israel. Although Israeli public support for a Palestinian state is mixed, it becomes more acceptable within the context of a broader U.S.-brokered agreement.

The Biden administration envisions post-war Gaza being overseen by the Palestinian Authority, supported by a coalition of Arab security forces. However, Israel asserts the need to defeat Hamas before such arrangements can be implemented.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, emphasized the necessity of neutralizing Hamas’s military capabilities in Rafah to prevent its resurgence. He underscored the importance of Arab forces intervening only after Hamas is decisively defeated.

Modi Administration’s Global Image Management: A Struggle Against Rising Criticism

In the lead-up to the G20 summit, the Narendra Modi administration frequently employed the phrases ‘mother of democracy’ and ‘vishwaguru’.

The term ‘mother of democracy’ seemed to be introduced as a counter to India’s swift decline in the global democracy index.

‘Vishwaguru’ aimed to convey the message that Modi is a global leader whose presence cannot be overlooked any longer.

India’s presidency of the G20 rotates, and last year it was India’s turn to host the summit. Yashwant Sinha reminisced about his chairing of the G20 during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, noting that Vajpayee didn’t utilize it for cult-building purposes. However, the current government’s focus during the G20, symbolized by a globe resting on a lotus, was centered on projecting India as a robust democracy with Modi as its singular leader. This shift prompts the question: why has the BJP manifesto now replaced ‘Vishwaguru’ with ‘Vishwabandhu’?

Recently, several Western nations have expressed concerns about events in India. The US, for instance, has raised issues regarding communal tensions, religious freedom, and the arrests of political figures:

The US State Department’s annual human rights assessment highlighted “significant” abuses in Manipur;

  • It also voiced concerns about communal violence in Gurugram;
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted a ‘decline in religious freedom’ in India and urged the Modi government to release 37 individuals of various faiths detained for the ‘peaceful exercise of their freedom of religion or belief’.
  • State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that the US closely monitored the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the freezing of Congress party bank accounts, emphasizing the need for fair, transparent, and timely legal processes.
  • A State Department official called on India to uphold its human rights obligations.

President Joe Biden’s absence as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, the postponement of the Quad summit, and NSA Jake Sullivan’s cancellation of visits to India have been interpreted by some as indications of US disapproval. The latest negative comment was Biden’s labeling of India as ‘xenophobic’.

Even during the G20 summit in New Delhi, a resolution was passed advocating for religious freedom, freedom of peaceful assembly, and condemning all acts of religious hatred.

In response to criticism, the Modi government’s initial reaction has been to dismiss it as Western propaganda and minimize its impact on domestic politics. Television channels and print media have cooperated, often presenting carefully curated versions of reports that cast the government in a favorable light. Frequently, the mainstream media leads such stories with official denials before briefly acknowledging the criticism and dismissing it.

This age-old tactic, reminiscent of the Cold War era, was employed recently when Germany and the US commented on Kejriwal’s arrest. Envoys were summoned to the External Affairs Ministry and handed formal protests against ‘interference’ in India’s internal affairs. Simultaneously, the government launched a robust diplomatic offensive against what it deemed ‘disinformation’.

One strategy borrowed from the US involves leveraging trade and arms purchases as diplomatic tools, with mixed success. While France, India’s defense collaborator, and Gulf countries have remained relatively silent, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has defended India’s democracy in foreign capitals, and Indian embassies have been tasked with countering ‘Western propaganda’.

The Modi government’s unease with foreign criticism is understandable. Initially, the domestic media highlighted such criticism. However, within the first three years of Modi’s tenure, negative news was largely suppressed in mainstream media. Nonetheless, strategies like ‘sam, dam, dand, bhed’ have failed to silence external critics.

The BBC underwent tax raids and faced FDI inquiries, leading it to separate its Indian newsroom into a distinct company. Emily Schmall of The New York Times recounted being invited to meetings with the government, during which ministers would criticize foreign correspondents. At one such meeting, the “minister of information” read aloud headlines from articles written by the gathered correspondents in a seemingly random manner, with a hint of sarcasm. At least 13 journalists, nine of whom were Muslims in Kashmir, have been booked under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Schmall emphasized that journalism is under threat in India.

Last year, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur accused The New York Times of spreading lies after it published an article on press freedom in Kashmir. His response mirrored the government’s tendency to dismiss negative reports as false.

When Lancet questioned the accuracy and transparency of Indian healthcare data, the government dismissed it. Similarly, a Harvard study indicating 6.7 million malnourished children in India was labeled as fake news.

To refute the IMF’s lower GDP prediction, former Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramaniam criticized the IMF’s estimates as consistently inaccurate. Incumbent CEA Anantha Nageswaran has also questioned the metrics of ratings agencies like Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P.

Union Minister Rajiv Chandrasekhar described as ‘half-truths’ a report by The Washington Post claiming that India had requested Apple to ‘soften’ its hacking alert.

Despite these efforts, negative news about India continues to surface:

Reporters Without Borders stated that India’s ranking in the World Freedom Index for 2024 is 159 out of 176 countries, compared to 150 in 2022.

India ranked 111 out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2023, with the highest rate of child wasting at 18.7%. In the previous year, its ranking was 107 out of 121 countries.

India topped the Global Slavery Index for 2023 among G20 countries, followed by China, Russia, Indonesia, and the US.

Youth unemployment in India in 2022 was 23.22%, higher than in Pakistan (11.3%), Bangladesh (12.9%), China (13.2%), and Bhutan (14.4%), according to World Bank data.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and 10 other international rights groups have criticized the misuse of laws like UAPA and financial regulations to silence journalists, human rights activists, and government critics.

Accordingly, an all-out mobilization effort is underway by the Modi regime to counteract this negative narrative. To counter organizations like Freedom House, V-Dem, and the Economic Intelligence Unit, the government-run Niti Ayog has engaged the Modi-friendly Observer Research Foundation to create India’s own democracy index. The Adani group has announced the establishment of a new think-tank. Additionally, pro-government voices, including academic groups, intellectuals, lawyers, and retired judges associated with the Sangh Parivar, are encouraged to issue statements and contribute articles to the media.

The PMO is coordinating the media response, both in print and digital formats. It appears that Vishwabandhu feels he has nothing to lose but his world.

Hamas Agrees to Temporary Ceasefire with Israel Amid Hostage Negotiations and Diplomatic Tensions

Hamas has reportedly agreed to a temporary cessation of hostilities with Israel amidst ongoing diplomatic maneuvers aimed at securing the release of Israeli hostages held by the group and preventing an Israeli military intervention in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

According to Basem Naim, Hamas’s head of political and international relations, the group has communicated its acceptance of a ceasefire proposal to mediators from Egypt and Qatar. This comes after weeks of intensive diplomatic efforts by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas.

While Israel has indicated its willingness to send a delegation for negotiations on a temporary ceasefire, it has expressed reservations about Hamas’s proposal, deeming it insufficient to meet Israel’s demands. The Israeli government, in a statement from the prime minister’s office, asserted that Hamas’s proposal falls short of their requirements.

Simultaneously, Israel’s wartime Cabinet has unanimously decided to continue military operations targeting Hamas positions in Rafah. Despite efforts by the Biden administration to dissuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from launching an offensive in Rafah, the White House remains cautious about Hamas’s ceasefire offer.

President Biden held discussions with Netanyahu, although the conversation occurred prior to Hamas’s announcement. John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, emphasized the administration’s commitment to securing the release of Israeli hostages through a temporary ceasefire, as well as safeguarding the lives of over a million Palestinians in Rafah.

Rafah, located on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, serves as a crucial entry point for humanitarian aid into the besieged territory. Following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in numerous casualties and the abduction of over 250 individuals, Israel has been engaged in a protracted conflict with the group.

A brief ceasefire in November facilitated the release of more than 100 hostages, a precedent that the administration seeks to replicate in ongoing negotiations. However, the specific details of the proposed truce have not been publicly disclosed by mediators, and Hamas has refrained from elaborating on the terms.

Nonetheless, the tentative agreement reportedly involves a six-to-eight week cessation of hostilities, during which Hamas would gradually release Israeli hostages, starting with the most vulnerable among them. In return, Israel is expected to release an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners, withdraw troops from select areas of Gaza, and permit movement for Palestinians within the territory.

Additionally, the ceasefire would enable a significant influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza, where the population has endured displacement, casualties, and dire humanitarian conditions due to the prolonged conflict.

Indian-American Groups Oppose Kashmiri Flag Display at Rutgers University Amidst Gaza Conflict Protests

Prominent Indian-American community organizations have appealed to Rutgers University Chancellor in New Jersey to refrain from allowing the exhibition of a separatist Kashmiri flag on its campus. They argue that such an act would convey a misleading message amid the ongoing turmoil at prominent US educational institutions over Israel’s conflict in Gaza.

Leading universities across the US are witnessing protests against Israeli military action in Gaza. The conflict was instigated by unprecedented attacks against Israel by Hamas militants on October 7, resulting in the deaths of over 1,400 people. In response, Israel has initiated a significant counter-offensive against the Islamic militant group governing Gaza since 2007.

On Friday, a group representing protesting students claimed that eight out of their ten demands had been met by the Rutgers University administration. However, the ninth demand, which proposed the display of flags of occupied peoples, including Palestine, Kurds, and Kashmiris, across Rutgers campuses, did not receive approval. The university administration stated that it would assess the flags exhibited on the New Brunswick Campus to ensure appropriate representation of enrolled students.

This refusal to meet the demand angered several Indian American groups, including the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA). They criticized Rutgers University for what they perceived as giving in to hate by approving the display of a Kashmiri separatist flag, which they associated with terror and the displacement of Kashmiri Hindus.

Some individuals, like Dharma Viveka, criticized Rutgers University for what they saw as capitulating to the demands of protesting students and failing to uphold equitable resource allocation. Additionally, the university’s decision sparked concern among Indian American communities, given the significant number of Indian students at Rutgers and the large Indian American population in New Jersey.

Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), expressed surprise and dismay over Rutgers’ consideration of the demand to display flags of occupied peoples. He argued that such actions would call into question India’s integrity, asserting that Kashmir is an integral part of India and not a separate entity. Abraham cautioned against Rutgers’ involvement in internal conflicts of other countries, emphasizing its role as a public educational institution belonging to everyone.

The controversy surrounding Rutgers University’s handling of demands for flag displays reflects broader tensions over international conflicts within US educational institutions and the complexities of representing diverse student populations while navigating geopolitical sensitivities.

India Dismisses USCIRF Report, Labels Accusations of Discrimination as Biased

India has firmly dismissed the recent findings of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of promoting discriminatory nationalist policies. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, labeled the USCIRF as biased and propagandist, expressing little hope for the organization to grasp India’s diverse, pluralistic, and democratic essence. Jaiswal emphasized this stance during a press briefing, asserting, “We really have no expectation that USCIRF will even seek to understand India’s diverse, pluralistic and democratic ethos. Their efforts to interfere in the largest electoral exercise of the world will never succeed.”

USCIRF, established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, comprises Commissioners appointed by the President and bipartisan leadership from both chambers of Congress. The Commission’s recent report accused India’s government, particularly the BJP, of exacerbating communal tensions and neglecting to address violence disproportionately impacting various religious and ethnic communities.

“In 2023, religious freedom conditions in India continued to deteriorate,” the USCIRF report stated. It criticized the BJP-led government for reinforcing discriminatory policies, fostering divisive rhetoric, and failing to address communal violence, particularly affecting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Jews, and indigenous Adivasi communities. The report highlighted the continued enforcement of laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and anti-conversion and cow slaughter laws, which allegedly led to the arbitrary detention and targeting of religious minorities and their advocates.

Moreover, USCIRF’s report raised concerns about media and NGO freedom, citing instances of strict monitoring under FCRA regulations. It pointed to the suspension of the FCRA license of the Centre for Policy Research, an NGO focused on social issues and minority discrimination, as well as raids on the offices and homes of journalists, including Teesta Setalvad, known for her reporting on anti-Muslim violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

India’s response to the USCIRF report underscores the ongoing tensions between the Indian government and international organizations regarding religious freedom and human rights. The rejection of USCIRF’s findings reflects India’s assertion of sovereignty and resistance to external scrutiny, particularly from entities perceived as biased or politically motivated. As India continues to navigate complex religious and social dynamics, its relationship with international bodies like USCIRF remains contentious, with divergent perspectives on issues of religious freedom and minority rights.

Alleged Indian Intelligence Operations Abroad Stir Tensions with Western Allies

US and Australian media reports on alleged overseas operations by Indian “intelligence officials” have caught New Delhi off-guard, stirring disquiet within the establishment. Sources suggest a perceived “concerted pushback” from key Western strategic allies. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Indian operatives were expelled from Australia for attempting to pilfer sensitive defense and airport security information, along with classified data on trade relationships. The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald confirmed the expulsion of two Indian “spies.”

The ABC highlighted a foreign “nest of spies” dismantled by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 2020, alleging surveillance on Indian expatriates and forging close ties with current and former politicians. The Washington Post, a day prior, identified an Indian intelligence official implicated in a plot to assassinate pro-Khalistan Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, seeking connections with senior Indian intelligence and security figures.

Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, denounced The Washington Post’s report, labeling it as containing “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations” on a serious matter. He referenced an ongoing high-level investigation addressing security concerns shared by the US government regarding organized crime and terrorism networks.

ABC disclosed that ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess had hinted at the spy network during his 2021 annual threat assessment, without divulging the country involved. Burgess reportedly detailed how the spies recruited an Australian government security clearance holder with access to sensitive defense technology information. The Indian government has yet to respond to ABC’s revelations, given the lack of official endorsement from the Australian government.

When questioned about allegations linking the Indian government to the “nest of spies,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong refrained from commenting on intelligence matters but emphasized democratic principles and the resilience of Australian democracy against foreign interference. Sources indicate a shared sentiment in South Block and North Block, housing the Ministries of External and Home Affairs, that Western agencies aim to establish boundaries with India, a key Quad grouping partner.

The timing, amidst a heated election season in India, bolsters New Delhi’s belief that Western partners prefer a more “sensitive” approach from the next government regarding overseas operations, particularly in certain countries.

Israel-Hamas Negotiations: Proposed Deal Offers Hope Amidst Gaza Conflict Escalation

Hamas is contemplating a fresh framework put forth by Egypt, aiming at the release of around 33 hostages abducted from Israel in exchange for a temporary halt in hostilities in Gaza, sources told CNN, including an Israeli insider familiar with the negotiations and a foreign diplomatic source.

The recent proposal, jointly crafted with Israel’s involvement but not entirely endorsed yet, unfolds in two stages. The initial phase entails releasing 20 to 33 hostages over several weeks in return for the cessation of hostilities and the liberation of Palestinian detainees. The subsequent phase, labeled as the “restoration of sustainable calm,” envisions the exchange of remaining hostages, Israeli prisoners, and deceased hostages’ bodies for additional Palestinian detainees.

A diplomatic insider, acquainted with the discussions, explained that the reference to sustainable calm serves as a veiled agreement towards a permanent ceasefire. This potential agreement marks a significant stride towards ending the conflict after months of stalemate. However, failing to reach an accord could lead to an escalated Israeli presence in Gaza. In the absence of a deal, Israel might initiate a large-scale ground invasion into Rafah, a southern Gaza city harboring over a million Palestinians. Such an operation has drawn warnings from Israel’s allies, including the United States, due to the risk of extensive civilian casualties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned that Israel would proceed with an operation in Rafah, irrespective of a deal. Hamas is currently reviewing the proposal following discussions with Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo. Israel awaits Hamas’s response, anticipated within days.

The duration of the initial ceasefire phase would correlate with the number of hostages released, with the latest plan suggesting a one-day cessation for each hostage, though this parameter might evolve during further negotiations. Previously, negotiations centered on releasing 40 hostages in exchange for a six-week ceasefire, but Israel has shown flexibility by accepting fewer hostages for the initial phase following Hamas’s revised offer earlier this month.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Israel’s ceasefire proposal as “extremely generous,” placing the onus on Hamas to make a prompt decision. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed optimism regarding both sides’ acceptance of the proposal, emphasizing the goal of a permanent ceasefire and addressing humanitarian concerns.

Israel has signaled openness to negotiate sustainable calm as part of a comprehensive agreement, involving Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza and the release of all remaining hostages and bodies. Hamas, however, insists on a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, while Israel maintains its stance on continuing operations until Hamas is dismantled.

In a significant concession, Israel has agreed to unrestricted movement for Palestinians in northern Gaza, addressing a key demand by Hamas that had previously hindered negotiations.

Negotiations are shadowed by the looming threat of an Israeli offensive in Rafah, which Israeli sources portray as a last resort, pending the outcome of negotiations. Netanyahu’s statement on potential military action in Rafah underscores the seriousness of the situation. While the US and other allies urge caution, emphasizing civilian safety, preparations for a possible offensive are reportedly underway.

The escalating death toll in Gaza underscores the urgency of reaching a resolution. Israeli airstrikes have claimed numerous lives, including women and children, prompting international concern and calls for a swift end to the violence.

As the situation remains precarious, diplomatic efforts continue amidst mounting humanitarian concerns and the risk of further escalation in the conflict.

DHS Launches AI Safety Board with Tech Titans to Safeguard Critical Infrastructure

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the United States has declared the establishment of an Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security Board (the Board) with the objective of steering the safe and secure integration of AI technology within the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The board is comprised of 22 distinguished individuals from various sectors, including technology, academia, policymaking, and civil rights advocacy, as stated in the official announcement.

In its initial composition, the board features several prominent leaders of Indian American descent, including Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM; Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft; Shantanu Narayen, chair and CEO of Adobe; Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet; and Arati Prabhakar, assistant to the president for science and technology; director, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The establishment of this board is a direct response to the DHS Homeland Threat Assessment of 2024, which underscores the evolving threats posed by AI-assisted tools to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Shantanu Narayen, Chair & CEO of Adobe, voiced the company’s dedication to advancing AI technology responsibly, asserting, “This Board holds enormous potential to advance AI technology, establishing guidelines that will help AI enhance and secure our nation’s critical infrastructure while mitigating any risks it could pose.”

Arvind Krishna stressed the significance of AI in bolstering the nation’s security, remarking, “Artificial intelligence is a game-changing technology that is making businesses smarter, stronger, and safer. AI’s ability to analyze threat information at scale can help protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.”

Satya Nadella emphasized the imperative for safe and responsible AI deployment, stating, “Artificial Intelligence is the most transformative technology of our time, and we must ensure it is deployed safely and responsibly.”

Secretary Mayorkas commended the expertise and dedication of the Board members, recognizing their pivotal role in shaping AI policy. He affirmed, “Artificial Intelligence is a transformative technology that can advance our national interests in unprecedented ways. At the same time, it presents real risks—risks that we can mitigate by adopting best practices and taking other studied, concrete actions.”

House Passes Historic Foreign Aid Package Amidst GOP Infighting: Billions Allocated for Ukraine, Israel, and Global Allies

Lawmakers in the House, from both sides of the aisle, united on Saturday to advance a significant foreign aid package to the Senate, effectively ending a prolonged and contentious standoff over the destiny of the legislation and virtually ensuring the provision of billions of dollars in fresh assistance to beleaguered allies worldwide.

The exceptional weekend voting sessions marked the conclusion of months of intense deliberation within the House Republican caucus regarding whether and how Congress should intervene with further military assistance for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, while also extending humanitarian aid to civilian victims in conflict zones like Gaza and other war-ravaged regions globally.

The discourse had splintered House Republicans into opposing factions, setting Reagan-era traditionalists, proponents of robust international interventions to counter the ambitions of Russia and China, against a newer strain of “America First” conservatives advocating for curtailing foreign expenditure and redirecting focus to domestic issues, notably the migrant crisis along the southern border.

Ultimately, Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana defied his conservative detractors, bringing forth a series of four bills on the House floor to furnish overseas assistance. Notably, he disentangled these funds from a separate border security proposal that failed to garner support during Saturday’s proceedings. Johnson underscored the aid as a straightforward yet vital extension of America’s commitment to democratic allies facing threats from autocratic regimes.

“I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important,” Johnson emphasized earlier in the week. “I really do believe the intel and the briefings that we’ve gotten. I believe Xi and Vladimir Putin and Iran really are an axis of evil.”

Representative Mike McCaul of Texas revealed that Johnson sought divine guidance before making the pivotal decision to forge ahead. McCaul noted Johnson’s internal conflict between preserving his position and doing what he perceived as morally right, indicating Johnson’s reliance on prayer for clarity.

The passage of the foreign aid bills marked a significant triumph for the relatively inexperienced Speaker, who assumed leadership less than six months prior. The package, approved through four distinct votes, allocated approximately $61 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel, $8 billion for Indo-Pacific allies, and included additional national security measures such as a potential ban on TikTok.

However, the move carried political risks, exacerbating tensions among conservatives already discontented with Johnson’s bipartisan collaborations with President Biden on major legislation. This discontent manifested in a nascent effort to unseat Johnson, with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene spearheading a motion to vacate, backed by Representatives Thomas Massie and Paul Gosar.

While Johnson dismissed the threat, emphasizing the imperative of supporting Ukraine amid its struggle against Russia, some allies acknowledged the possibility of Greene’s motion materializing.

Yet, the conservative dissent extended beyond ideological differences. Some were concerned about escalating federal debt, others advocated for an isolationist stance akin to Trump’s priorities, and a faction harbored distrust towards Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stemming from past political entanglements.

The migrant crisis also emerged as a pivotal point of contention, with Johnson initially demanding border security provisions alongside foreign aid, later abandoning this stance to focus solely on international assistance, a move met with incredulity by conservatives.

Despite Johnson’s efforts to mollify conservative objections by introducing amendments aligning with Republican national security interests, his strategy failed to garner full support within the GOP, with over half the conference voting against the Ukraine funding.

The Israel aid component further divided Democrats, reflecting internal disagreements over U.S. policy towards the Middle East. While the bill included significant humanitarian aid, some progressives opposed it for its perceived lack of conditions on assistance to Jerusalem, emphasizing the importance of enforcing human rights and international law.

Saturday’s passage marked the third attempt by Johnson to secure aid for Israel, following previous setbacks in November and February. Despite challenges, the aid package now advances to the Senate, expected to pass in the coming week.

House Passes $95 Billion Package for Military Aid, Humanitarian Assistance: What’s Inside?

The $95 billion package recently approved by the House, poised for Senate approval next week, is set to address various international concerns, including military aid for Ukraine and Israel, replenishing U.S. weapons systems, and providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza. President Joe Biden has committed to promptly signing the package upon receipt.

The breakdown of the spending is as follows:

For Ukraine and U.S. weapons stockpiles, approximately $61 billion is allocated. This includes a substantial $13.8 billion designated for the purchase of weapons by Ukraine. Additionally, Ukraine is slated to receive over $9 billion in economic assistance through “forgivable loans.”

Israel is set to receive about $26 billion in support, with a portion earmarked for replenishing its missile defense systems. Furthermore, over $9 billion is allocated for humanitarian aid in Gaza, particularly pertinent given the recent Israel-Hamas conflict.

Approximately $8 billion is allocated for bolstering U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region and countering China. This includes over $3.3 billion for submarine infrastructure and development, along with an additional $1.9 billion to restock U.S. weapons provided to Taiwan and other regional allies.

This comprehensive package aims to address key international concerns while reinforcing strategic alliances and promoting stability in various regions.

US Backs India’s Bid for UNSC Seat Amid Elon Musk’s Critique

The United States has responded to India’s plea for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), initiated earlier this year by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, has conveyed his nation’s support for reforms within the United Nations’ structures, aiming to modernize and render them more reflective of the current global scenario.

When questioned about his government’s stance on Elon Musk’s commentary during a press briefing, Patel affirmed, “The President has addressed this issue previously in his speeches to the UN General Assembly, and the Secretary has also made references to it. We unequivocally endorse reforms within the UN institution, including the Security Council, to ensure it mirrors the 21st-century world we inhabit.” Patel further stated, “I don’t have specific details to provide regarding these measures, but we do acknowledge the necessity for reform. However, I will refrain from elaborating further at this time.”

In January, billionaire Elon Musk expressed his view that India’s exclusion from a permanent seat at the UNSC is “illogical.” He expanded on this viewpoint in a social media post, suggesting that this status quo persists due to powerful nations’ reluctance to relinquish their authority.

In a post on X, the Tesla CEO remarked, “There must be a reassessment of the UN bodies at some juncture. The issue lies in the reluctance of those with excessive power to cede it. It’s absurd that India, despite being the most populous nation on Earth, lacks a permanent seat on the Security Council. Additionally, Africa as a whole should also have a permanent seat.”

In alignment with this sentiment, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Narendra Modi, in its election manifesto titled “Sankalp Patra” for the Lok Sabha polls, vowed to actively pursue permanent membership for India in the United Nations Security Council.

The BJP articulated in its election manifesto, “We are dedicated to seeking permanent membership in the UN Security Council to enhance India’s stature in global decision-making.”

Twitter’s Move Against Manipulated Media: A Step Towards Accountability

In a notable turn of events, Twitter took action against Amit Malviya, the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell, by tagging one of his tweets as ‘manipulated media’. This marks a significant departure as it’s the first instance of Twitter applying restrictive measures against a prominent Indian political figure.

This move comes in the wake of Twitter’s recent policy adjustments aimed at curbing the dissemination of misinformation on its platform. One of the key changes introduced by Twitter is its heightened vigilance towards manipulated media, a policy that was initially outlined in November 2019.

The genesis of this policy can be traced back to Twitter’s recognition of the need to address a broader spectrum of deceptive media practices compared to its counterparts like Facebook. While Facebook primarily focused on combatting deepfakes—videos synthesized from scratch—Twitter’s approach was more encompassing. It took into account user feedback indicating a preference for contextualization over outright removal of manipulated media.

The precedent for such actions was set when Twitter flagged a video posted by then-US President Donald Trump in June 2020. Trump’s tweet featured a clip portraying two toddlers of different races hugging, with a CNN-like chyron falsely insinuating racism. This manipulation was promptly identified by journalists, who clarified that the original story was about the friendship between the children.

In contrast, the tweet by Malviya didn’t involve doctored media but rather an edited clip designed to distort reality. The edited footage, in response to a widely circulated image showing a policeman seemingly striking an elderly farmer during protests, was used by Malviya to propagate a narrative suggesting that the baton didn’t actually make contact with the farmer. Moreover, Malviya dismissed accusations of government violence against peaceful protesters as opposition propaganda.

However, a closer examination of the events, as elucidated by an Alt News article, reveals instances of police resorting to lathi charges against farmers, who retaliated with stone-pelting. Various news outlets reporting from the scene corroborated this, depicting scenes of violent police action in response to farmers breaking blockades.

Twitter’s decision to flag Malviya’s tweet as ‘manipulated media’ hinges on its policy’s emphasis on preventing deceptive usage of media content. The platform’s Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy stipulates that sharing media in a manner intended to mislead or deceive, thereby fostering confusion or misunderstanding, warrants intervention.

While Twitter’s efforts to hold political leaders accountable for misleading content have garnered praise, questions linger regarding the consistency of its application. Internationally, the last instance of Twitter invoking its ‘synthesized or manipulated media’ clause against political figures dates back to September 2019, when it restricted tweets from journalists and government accounts in Cuba following President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s address regarding an energy crisis exacerbated by US sanctions. This move drew criticism, with concerns raised over potential censorship and selective enforcement of platform manipulation policies.

In the Indian context, despite evidence suggesting widespread misuse of social media for propagating misinformation, Twitter’s response has been perceived as inadequate. Reports indicate the existence of thousands of fake accounts amplifying fake news, particularly associated with major political parties like the BJP and Congress. Despite such findings, Twitter has yet to take decisive action comparable to its response in other regions.

Furthermore, Twitter’s compliance with government directives, such as the removal of tweets critical of the Indian government in Kashmir and the withholding of Kashmiri accounts in India, has sparked controversy. Critics argue that such actions raise questions about Twitter’s commitment to free expression and its impartiality in addressing sensitive geopolitical issues.

Moreover, Twitter has faced criticism for its perceived inaction against instances of online abuse, particularly those rooted in misogyny and casteism. This perceived bias has prompted some users to explore alternative platforms like Mastodon in protest.

Twitter’s move to flag Amit Malviya’s tweet as ‘manipulated media’ signifies a step towards holding political figures accountable for deceptive content. However, questions persist regarding the platform’s consistency in enforcing such policies, especially in contexts like India where the spread of misinformation is a pressing concern.

New Legislation in U.S. House Aims to Address ‘Hinduphobia,’ Sparks Debate Over Intent and Impact

A fresh legislative proposal presented in the House of Representatives seeks to denounce “Hinduphobia,” a term utilized by certain Hindu Americans to articulate what they assert as burgeoning anti-Hindu sentiments in the United States.

The bill was put forward by Democratic Representative Shri Thanedar, an Indian American hailing from Michigan. During a press conference on Monday, he delineated what he perceives as an escalating threat to Indian Americans who adhere to Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion.

“Today I am seeing in the United States a substantial increase of attacks on Hinduism, a lot of misinformation being circulated,” he stated. “Having practiced Hinduism, having grown in a Hindu household, I know what Hinduism is. It is a very peaceful religion … It is not a religion that attacks others, it is not a religion that is aggressive against others.”

Thanedar’s resolution outlines various points, including the House’s acknowledgment of the contributions of Hindus to the U.S. and its condemnation of “Hinduphobia” and anti-Hindu bigotry.

However, progressive Hindu and South Asian groups have voiced apprehension about this legislation, contending that while anti-Hindu sentiment does exist, the term “Hinduphobia” was fabricated by the Indian far-right to stifle criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

“In many cases, instances of anti-Indian sentiment, general xenophobia, or even mistaken Islamophobia are misleadingly labeled as ‘Hinduphobic’ regardless of whether or not there is any evidence to support claims of religious motivation,” remarked Hindus for Human Rights, a progressive civil rights organization, in a news release. “Even worse, claims of ‘Hinduphobia’ have routinely been weaponized to smear anyone — including self-identifying Hindus — who criticizes the current Indian government.”

During his press conference, Thanedar depicted the Hindu community as “inclusive” and asserted that it has been purposefully misrepresented by mainstream media. He also highlighted instances of vandalism on two California Hindu temples with graffiti reading “Modi is a terrorist” and slogans calling for an independent Sikh state.

“We have experienced substantially more events of this kind in recent months, and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning,” he remarked. “This is just the beginning of a very coordinated attempt against this community.”

Thanedar refrained from speculating about the perpetrators of these attacks but urged the FBI, the Department of Justice, and local authorities to intervene.

Modi’s government frequently faces criticism for its human rights record, including assaults on the media and anti-Muslim legislation. It’s also been accused of promoting Hindu nationalism both in India and among the diaspora.

In the U.S., Muslims and caste minorities have reported facing targeted attacks and violence for speaking out against far-right, Hindu nationalist actors aiming to establish India as a Hindu-dominated nation. Hindus for Human Rights contended in its release that Thanedar’s resolution could stifle these conversations by branding them as “Hinduphobic.”

In reality, the organization argued, the primary threat to Indian American immigrants in the U.S. is white nationalism.

“Though it claims to celebrate Hindu Americans and speak for our community’s interests, this resolution does not respond to real concerns about how Hindu Americans are affected by white Christian nationalism in the United States,” the release stated. “Instead, it reflects a longstanding effort by the Hindu supremacist movement in the United States to divide South Asian communities.”

US Urges Dialogue Amid India-Pakistan Tensions; Refrains from Sanctions Discussion

The latest statement from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding terrorism has drawn a response from the United States. US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller expressed a preference for dialogue to resolve the issue between India and Pakistan. “We do encourage both India and Pakistan to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue,” he stated.

Prime Minister Modi, along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, made remarks during a political rally asserting India’s determination to combat terrorism. In response, Miller emphasized the importance of avoiding escalation and seeking resolution through dialogue, without direct intervention from the US. He said, “We do encourage both India and Pakistan to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue.”

India has consistently maintained its stance against cross-border terrorism, asserting that improving ties with Islamabad cannot come at the expense of addressing terrorism. New Delhi has stressed the responsibility of Islamabad to foster an environment free from terror, hostility, and violence.

Rajnath Singh, speaking in an interview with ANI, urged Pakistan to take decisive action against cross-border terrorism, emphasizing the need for clarity in Pakistan’s intentions.

Regarding the alleged assassination plot of Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Miller refrained from discussing the possibility of sanctions against India. He stated, “I am never going to preview any sanction actions, which is not to say that there are any coming, but when you ask me to talk about sanctions, it’s something that we don’t discuss openly.”

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, designated as a terrorist by India, has posed repeated threats against the country. The US Justice Department has indicted Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national currently in custody, with the murder-for-hire of Pannun. The indictment also mentioned the involvement of an Indian government employee, whose identity was not disclosed, in recruiting Gupta to orchestrate the alleged assassination plot. This plot was reportedly thwarted by US authorities. Last year, India established a committee to investigate the allegations surrounding the foiled assassination attempt.

Retired Judges Urge Chief Justice: Defend Judiciary Against Threats

A collective of retired judges from both the Supreme Court and High Courts has penned a letter to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, expressing their shared apprehension concerning the escalating efforts by specific factions to undermine the judiciary through strategic pressure, dissemination of misinformation, and public denigration.

The missive, dated April 14, features signatures from 21 former judges, including prominent figures like former Supreme Court Justices Deepak Verma, Krishna Murari, Dinesh Maheshwari, and M R Shah, as well as former High Court judges Permod Kohli, S M Soni, Ambadas Joshi, and S N Dhingra.

In their communication, the ex-judges highlighted their awareness of “elements, motivated by narrow political interests and personal gains,” endeavoring to diminish public trust in the judicial system. They emphasized the multifaceted and surreptitious nature of these efforts, aimed at influencing judicial proceedings by casting doubt on the integrity of the courts and judges.

The former judges underscored that such actions not only disregard the sanctity of the judiciary but also present a direct affront to the principles of fairness and impartiality that judges, as custodians of the law, are duty-bound to uphold. They expressed deep concern over the tactics employed by these groups, ranging from disseminating unfounded theories to besmirch the judiciary’s reputation to engaging in overt and covert maneuvers to sway judicial outcomes in their favor.

“This behavior,” the former judges remarked, “is particularly evident in cases of social, economic, and political significance, including those involving specific individuals, where the distinction between advocacy and manipulation becomes blurred to the detriment of judicial independence.”

The signatories voiced particular alarm over the tactics of misinformation and the orchestration of public sentiment against the judiciary, deeming them not only unethical but also injurious to the foundational tenets of democracy. They criticized the selective praise of judicial decisions that align with one’s viewpoint while vehemently condemning those that do not, asserting that such practices undermine the essence of judicial review and the rule of law.

“The judiciary, spearheaded by the Supreme Court, must fortify itself against such pressures to ensure the sanctity and autonomy of our legal system are preserved,” urged the former judges. They stressed the imperative for the judiciary to remain a bastion of democracy, impervious to the transient whims of political interests.

In a show of solidarity with the judiciary, the former judges pledged their readiness to lend support in any capacity necessary to uphold the dignity, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary. They looked to Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud for steadfast guidance and leadership in navigating these challenging times, safeguarding the judiciary as a beacon of justice and equity.

Indian Consulate Hosts Empowering Meet & Greet for Indian Students in the US

More than 200 Indian students from 20 universities across the United States convened on April 12, 2024, for a ‘Student Meet and Greet session’ organized by the Indian Consulate in New York. The event, blending in-person and virtual participation, featured a panel discussion with esteemed figures including Professor Raghu Sundaram from NYU Stern School of Business, Dharti Desai representing TiE New York, attorney Anil Jethmalani, and Sai Vichare from NYU. Prakash Shukla led the discussion, focusing on various pertinent topics such as career prospects for Indian students, available support systems, legal and immigration assistance, and mentorship opportunities.

During the session, Prof. Sonia Sachdey, Chair of Psychology at Pace University, offered valuable insights into mental health management and stress coping mechanisms tailored for students. Notably, Indian Student Associations from prestigious institutions like Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Princeton, Yale, Brown, and Penn State actively participated in the event, demonstrating widespread engagement and interest.

The Indian Consulate emphasized its commitment to fostering strong ties with Indian students, extending unwavering support to meet their needs and address any concerns they may encounter. In a statement posted on X @IndiainNewYork, the Consulate affirmed its dedication to continued engagement and assistance for the Indian student community.

India Secures Membership in Key UN Bodies, Including Statistical Commission and UN Women Executive Board

India has clinched membership in crucial subsidiary entities of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including the UN Statistical Commission, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and the Programme Coordinating Board of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

India’s appointment to the UN Statistical Commission holds significance as it marks the country’s return to this vital body after a break of two decades, with its prior membership dating back to 2004.

The commission stands as the foremost authority on global statistical activities and plays a pivotal role in establishing standards in the realm of statistics.

India’s extensive experience in official statistics, particularly in addressing its diverse demographic landscape, is anticipated to enrich the commission’s discussions and make a substantial contribution to its efficient operation, according to a press release from the Permanent Mission of India to the UN.

India has also been elected to serve on the Commission on the Status of Women for the 2025-2029 term, as well as the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the term 2025-2027.

Additionally, India has been selected to serve on the Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) for the period 2025-2027, and the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (WFP) for the term 2025-2027.

“India remains steadfast in its commitment to actively engage in the discourse within these UN bodies, upholding the principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ — the world is one family. This guiding philosophy underscores our dedication to contributing constructively & collaboratively to global deliberations, fostering a spirit of unity & shared responsibility for the betterment of all,” stated India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj in a post on X.

President Biden Navigates Middle East Crisis Amid Iran-Israel Tensions

President Biden aims to prevent a full-scale escalation in the Middle East following Iran’s launch of hundreds of missiles and drones, most of which were intercepted, towards Israel in retaliation for an attack on an Iranian facility in Damascus that eliminated a top general.

Biden’s focus now shifts to persuading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other allies against further escalating tensions, which have been strained since the Gaza conflict began in October. Biden assured Netanyahu that the U.S. would refrain from participating in any offensive actions against Iran in the future.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby faced inquiries on whether Biden’s efforts to deter war with Iran were effectively communicated to Netanyahu. Kirby emphasized Israel’s success in intercepting the missiles, highlighting the message of solidarity and self-defense conveyed by President Biden.

Israel’s war Cabinet, however, seems to diverge from this sentiment, with Minister Benny Gantz affirming intentions to retaliate against Iran.

At home, there are pressures on Biden to retaliate against Tehran, with Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lindsey Graham advocating for aggressive strikes on Iran.

Regarding the safety of U.S. military personnel in the region, Kirby refrained from discussing details of Israel’s attack in Damascus but emphasized the need for contextual conversations to ensure the protection of American troops and facilities.

Biden is in discussions with Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding potential adjustments to the U.S. presence in the region to ensure the safety of troops, ships, and facilities.

Iran’s attack may alter the stance of some Democrats who had expressed concerns about Israel’s military operations in Gaza, particularly following an incident where aid workers were inadvertently killed by Israeli forces. Senator Mark Kelly expressed the need for continued aid to Israel despite his concerns.

Kirby, addressing concerns about the risk of wider war, stated that Biden’s actions aimed at de-escalation, exemplified by deploying additional resources to counter the recent attack.

A senior administration official emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to containing the crisis to Gaza, urging Israel to carefully consider its next steps without escalating the situation further.

US Navy Enhances Maritime Collaboration with India: Strategic Shipyard Agreement and Growing Indo-Pacific Cooperation

The US Navy inked a five-year Master Shipyard Repair Agreement (MSRA) with Larsen and Toubro (L&T) shipyard situated in Chennai, marking a significant development in maritime cooperation. The L&T shipyard at Kattupalli near Chennai, on the East Coast, has been actively involved in voyage repairs for Military Sealift Command vessels and has successfully conducted repairs for US Navy ships.

The recent agreement with CSL (Cochin Shipyard Limited) provides the US Navy with a shipyard facility for repairs on both the eastern and western coasts of India. CSL disclosed on April 6th the signing of the MSRA with the United States Navy. This non-financial agreement is set to facilitate the repair of US Naval vessels under the Military Sealift Command at CSL.

CSL secured eligibility for the agreement following a comprehensive evaluation and capability assessment conducted by the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command. CSL is already engaged in the maintenance and repair of several vessels, including INS Viraat, INS Vikramaditya (formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov), and the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant of the Indian Navy. Additionally, CSL undertakes repairs for tankers and bulk carriers of the Shipping Corporation of India.

Vice Admiral AB Singh, a retired Indian Navy officer, emphasized the significance of CSL and MDL (Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd) in the maritime landscape. He highlighted the potential of these entities, particularly with the forthcoming development of the Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport in Kerala.

The strategic location of Chennai proves advantageous for ship repair due to the port infrastructure at L&T shipyard, which meets the substantial depth requirements for US Ships. Notably, the USNS Salvor, the first warship, has already arrived at the shipyard for steel repairs.

Expanding on this collaboration, the UK seized the opportunity, with two British vessels, RFA Argus and RFA Lyme Bay, undergoing essential maintenance at the L&T shipyard. This marks the first instance of a Royal Navy vessel undergoing maintenance at an Indian shipyard, a direct outcome of the logistics-sharing agreement between the UK and India.

The potential for Andaman and Nicobar Islands to evolve as aviation hubs in the Indo-Pacific region has garnered attention, especially amidst the growing maritime cooperation between the US and India. These islands hold a strategic position at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, a crucial entry point to the South China Sea.

While India may initially be hesitant to expose the Andamans, possibilities such as overflight and ‘Gas and Go’ services could emerge in the future, considering the precedents set by the US in Changi, Singapore, and mainland India. The Andamans’ strategic significance is underscored by the US Navy’s utilization of the region for aviation logistics.

In 2020, amid heightened tensions between India and China, the US Navy’s P-8 Poseidon conducted its inaugural refueling from India’s strategic base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, further emphasizing their importance. Plans to enhance infrastructure on these islands align with their role as India’s gateway to the Asia Pacific region and as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.”

Recognizing India’s pivotal role in maritime operations, the West, including the UK and the US, has turned to India for maintenance support for their warships navigating the Indo-Pacific waters. This trend is fueled by growing maintenance delays and costs faced by the US Navy, amidst challenges posed by China’s expanding naval fleet.

Efforts are underway to revitalize the US Navy’s shipbuilding capabilities, with Japan and South Korea being urged to contribute. Additionally, there are considerations to utilize private shipyards in Japan for maintenance, repair, and overhaul services, aiming to alleviate servicing backlogs in the US.

The collaboration between like-minded countries aims to counterbalance China’s naval growth, with India’s strategic position on the Malacca Strait being pivotal in sustaining Western operations in the region. It is anticipated that the US will extend support to enhance infrastructure in India to bolster logistics support for its naval assets in the Indo-Pacific.

However, the US Navy faces challenges in meeting its repair needs amid budget constraints. Operating and support costs have surged across various ship classes, while propulsion hours have declined over the past decade. This underscores the importance of partnerships with reliable providers like L&T and CSL to ensure the operational readiness of the US Navy’s fleet.

US Braces for Potential Iranian Strikes on Israel, Prepares Defense and Diplomatic Measures

The United States is anticipating imminent strikes by Iran on multiple targets within Israel, CNN sources report. The Biden administration is bracing for a potentially volatile and unpredictable period in the Middle East. President Joe Biden warned that these attacks could happen “sooner than later” and issued a stern public message to Tehran: “Don’t.”

A conflict between Iran and Israel would mark a significant escalation in the region, a scenario the US has sought to avoid since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. The US is prepared to assist in intercepting any weapons aimed at its ally.

According to senior administration officials and intelligence sources, Iranian proxies might also be involved in the upcoming attacks, which could target locations both inside Israel and across the region. The US is poised to intercept weapons launched at Israel, indicating strong ongoing cooperation between the two militaries.

US intelligence has observed Iran moving military assets internally, including drones and cruise missiles, suggesting preparations for attacks on Israeli targets from within Iranian territory. There’s uncertainty whether Iran plans an initial strike from its soil or is posturing to deter potential counterattacks.

President Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to Israel’s security, emphasizing their readiness to support and defend Israel against Iranian aggression. The White House emphasized the “real,” “credible,” and “viable” threat posed by Iran following Israel’s recent attack on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria, which resulted in the deaths of three Iranian generals.

The US, along with Britain and France, issued new travel advisories for government personnel in Israel due to the looming Iranian threat. US Navy forces in the Red Sea have intercepted missiles aimed at Israel in the past, and additional military assets are being deployed to the Middle East to enhance regional deterrence efforts and protect US forces.

The Defense Department is bolstering air defenses for troops stationed in Iraq and Syria following multiple attacks by Iran-backed forces in recent months. While the US does not anticipate direct attacks on its forces, precautionary measures are being taken.

There’s speculation that any Iranian attack on Israel would likely be carried out by proxy forces rather than directly by Iran, as Tehran is wary of a dramatic escalation. However, Iran has urged its proxy militias to launch a large-scale attack against Israel using drones and missiles.

President Biden has been briefed regularly on the situation and is actively engaged in efforts to de-escalate tensions. US officials are in constant communication with Israel, urging restraint and providing support to ensure Israel’s ability to defend itself.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been urging other countries to press Iran to avoid escalating the conflict. Diplomatic efforts include discussions with Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, and European allies to convey the message to Iran.

In response to the heightened threat level, the US State Department has restricted the travel of government personnel in Israel, and France has advised its citizens against traveling to Iran, Lebanon, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories due to the risk of military escalation.

Six Months into Israel-Gaza Conflict: World Leaders Call for Ceasefire and Humanitarian Aid Amidst Rising Tensions

On October 7th, a tragic event unfolded as Hamas militants breached Israel’s borders from Gaza, resulting in approximately 1,200 casualties, mostly civilians, and the capture of over 250 individuals, initiating a harrowing conflict. In the subsequent six months, Israel retaliated by launching incursions and airstrikes on Gaza, reportedly claiming the lives of around 33,000 Palestinians, predominantly women and children, as documented by the United Nations. Moreover, Israel’s military actions and control over humanitarian aid entering Gaza have led to a dire situation, with an estimated one million people teetering on the edge of famine.

This crisis has elicited widespread condemnation and legal challenges, notably a case brought forth by South Africa at the United Nations’ highest court. In January, the court issued an interim order suggesting the plausibility of Israel engaging in acts of genocide, a claim vehemently denied by Israel. Consequently, pressure from Israel’s allies has intensified, particularly following an incident on April 2nd when Israeli military strikes resulted in the deaths of seven aid workers, including six foreign nationals affiliated with the NGO World Central Kitchen, deemed by the military as a “grave mistake.”

Following these tragic events, President Joe Biden issued a stern ultimatum to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging immediate measures to safeguard civilians and facilitate the delivery of food aid into Gaza. Failure to comply would prompt a reassessment of the United States’ military support, which amounts to billions of dollars annually. In response, Israel initiated the opening of new aid channels into Gaza.

Internally, Netanyahu faces significant domestic unrest, with mass protests demanding a resolution to the hostage situation involving the remaining 133 captives. Some demonstrators have joined anti-government rallies, advocating for Netanyahu’s resignation. Addressing the six-month milestone of the conflict, Netanyahu emphasized the perceived achievements of the war, asserting determination to secure a comprehensive victory, secure the release of all hostages, eradicate Hamas across Gaza, and ensure Israel’s long-term security. Netanyahu reiterated to the international community that no ceasefire would be entertained without the return of the hostages.

Reportedly, negotiations between Israel and Hamas are ongoing through intermediaries, with hopes of reaching a resolution.

Reflecting on the six-month mark of the conflict, various world leaders have voiced their perspectives:

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described October 7th as a “most appalling attack” in Israel’s history, emphasizing the need for an end to the conflict, the release of hostages, and immediate humanitarian intervention in Gaza.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned Hamas’ actions and reiterated the call for the release of hostages and cessation of violence.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jordan stressed the imperative of halting Israel’s military operations in Gaza and ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and the facilitation of humanitarian aid.

U.K. Foreign Minister David Cameron demanded the release of hostages by Hamas, advocated for Israel’s right to self-defense within the bounds of international law, and urged for increased humanitarian aid and a temporary ceasefire.

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden acknowledged Israel’s mistakes while upholding high standards for accountability, amidst public and legislative pressure to suspend arms sales to Israel.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres mourned the loss of life on both sides and condemned Hamas’ actions, calling for the unconditional release of hostages and a humanitarian ceasefire.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defense Micheál Martin honored the victims of the conflict while calling for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages, and enhanced humanitarian aid efforts.

The global response underscores the urgency of ending the violence, addressing humanitarian concerns, and pursuing a sustainable resolution to the protracted conflict, prioritizing the well-being and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Shift in American Opinion: Majority Disapproves of Israel’s Actions in Gaza Conflict

A recent poll indicates a significant shift in American attitudes towards Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. According to the poll, support for Israel’s military action has declined from 50 percent in November to 36 percent in the current month. Conversely, disapproval has risen from 45 percent to 55 percent over the same period, with approximately 9 percent of respondents expressing no opinion on the matter.

Partisan Divide on Views of Israel’s Actions

The poll reveals a clear partisan divide in attitudes towards Israel’s military actions in Gaza. While 64 percent of Republicans support the military action, only 18 percent of Democrats do. Among independents, support has dropped from 47 percent to 29 percent.

Growing Dissent and Calls for Ceasefire

Across the United States, protests calling for a ceasefire and the protection of Palestinian lives have become increasingly common. On the other side, some argue that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas, citing the incursion by the group on October 7, which resulted in over 1,100 casualties and the capture of approximately 250 hostages, with 100 still believed to be held in Gaza.

Protracted Conflict and Humanitarian Concerns

Despite nearly six months of conflict, there is no end in sight to the violence. More than 32,000 Palestinians have lost their lives, and the United Nations has warned of a looming famine in northern Gaza.

Political Ramifications and Voter Sentiment

Democrats are becoming increasingly frustrated with the mounting death toll and humanitarian crisis. This sentiment is particularly strong among Arab Americans and young voters, with promises of protest votes in the upcoming November elections. Notably, about 13 percent of Democrats in Michigan’s primary voted “uncommitted” rather than for President Biden.

Biden Administration’s Response

The Biden administration is attempting to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while also taking a tougher stance on the conflict. This was evident when the administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages. Although Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled a scheduled delegation to Washington following the vote, the White House has indicated that his office has agreed to reschedule.

Push for Reconsideration of Ground Operations

President Biden and key members of his Cabinet are urging Israel to reconsider a major ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. This area is home to more than a million Palestinians who are seeking refuge from the ongoing conflict.

Indian-American Leaders Confront US Officials on Terrorist Threats Against India

A contingent of prominent Indian-Americans residing in Silicon Valley convened a special gathering with high-ranking officials from the Department of Justice, FBI, and local law enforcement, shedding light on the exploitation of US territory for terrorist endeavors against India.

The assembly, spearheaded by community leader Ajai Jain Bhutoria, aimed to address the escalating frequency of hate crimes targeting Hindu and Jain establishments in California. Approximately two dozen distinguished Indian-Americans participated in the session, which was attended by Vincent Plair and Harpreet Singh Mokha from the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, alongside representatives from the FBI and police departments of San Francisco, Milpitas, Freemont, and Newark.

Expressing their discontent, attendees lamented the apparent inertia of US law enforcement in curtailing individuals promoting terrorism activities in India. They bemoaned the lack of action against those responsible for orchestrating hate crimes and issuing threats, including the attempted arson at the Indian consulate in San Francisco and overt intimidations directed at Indian diplomats.

According to members present, senior law enforcement officials professed ignorance regarding the Khalistan movement within the US and solicited assistance from Indian Americans in raising awareness about these terrorist factions. They cited resource constraints and competing priorities as impediments to taking decisive action.

Ajai Jain Bhutoria emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “This meeting was a crucial moment as we united to confront the recent surge in hate crimes targeting Hindu places of worship.” He underscored the urgent need for collective action in safeguarding religious sites amidst a wave of attacks and desecrations.

Sikh leader Sukhi Chahal elucidated on the discussions, highlighting the menace posed by supporters of the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) Khalistani movement targeting Hindu temples and disseminating inflammatory propaganda. He urged law enforcement agencies to address the alarming rhetoric of pro-Khalistan figures like Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, stressing its potential to sow discord and radicalize youth.

In response to the deliberations, it was agreed to establish a working group under the auspices of the US Department of Justice, tasked with implementing safety protocols at places of worship and instituting a streamlined reporting mechanism for untoward incidents. The group would comprise representatives from various segments of the Indian community.

Despite these developments, community leaders voiced apprehensions regarding the efficacy of law enforcement in assuaging prevailing anxieties and thwarting terrorist activities emanating from US soil. Concerns were raised over the perceived lack of understanding among authorities regarding the nuances of the Khalistan movement and the alleged tacit support extended to its proponents by certain factions within the FBI.

Participants emphasized the urgency of addressing the brazen threats issued by Khalistani leaders, including purported plots to target Air India flights and the unabated dissemination of anti-Hindu sentiments. They underscored the imperative of countering such rhetoric to preserve social harmony and safeguard bilateral relations between India and the US.

UK and India Conclude Landmark Free Trade Agreement After Two Years of Negotiations

The UK and India have concluded negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after two years of discussions, marking a significant milestone in their economic relationship. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his enthusiasm for the agreement, stating, “This landmark pact underlines our commitment to boosting economic progress and creating opportunities for our youth.” He further emphasized the potential for increased prosperity and mutual growth as ties with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nations strengthen. The pact follows nearly 16 years of negotiation efforts.

In this FTA, India has agreed to reduce most import tariffs on industrial goods from the four EFTA countries in exchange for investments spanning a 15-year period. These investments are anticipated to be directed across various sectors such as pharmaceuticals, machinery, and manufacturing. The EFTA hailed the agreement for improving market access and streamlining customs procedures, which will facilitate expansion opportunities for businesses from both India and the EFTA nations.

The next steps involve the ratification of the agreement by both India and the four EFTA countries. Switzerland aims to complete its ratification process by the following year. Notably, India is on the brink of general elections, with Prime Minister Modi vying for a historic third term in office. Over the past two years, India has also inked trade deals with Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Despite optimism regarding the FTA, challenges remain, especially concerning the timing of its implementation vis-à-vis India’s electoral calendar. UK’s trade minister Kemi Badenoch acknowledged the possibility of finalizing a free trade deal before India’s elections but conceded that it would be a formidable task. She remarked, “I suspect that that is not necessarily going to be the case because I don’t want to use any election as a deadline.” This statement underscores the complexities associated with aligning trade negotiations with political timelines.

U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry Reflects on Landmark Climate Agreement as Retirement Nears

Time was ticking away, and U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry was acutely aware of the urgency of the situation. In the midst of mid-December international climate talks, progress had stalled, with no consensus in sight on phasing out the use of oil, gas, and coal—the very fuels driving global warming.

The looming deadline of the United Nations-sponsored conference, set just after Kerry’s 80th birthday, added to the pressure. Moreover, Kerry’s long-time Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, who had collaborated with him on previous agreements, announced his retirement, signaling a potential loss of opportunity at the COP28 summit in Dubai.

Reflecting on this critical juncture, Kerry remarked during a recent interview with The Associated Press, conducted prior to his impending retirement: “It made me bear down and get to a lot more meetings, one-on-one and otherwise, and frankly dragooned a few other people into the effort to persuade and make the difference.”

In the midst of negotiations, there was a surprising shift. The energy minister of Saudi Arabia, a nation historically resistant to diplomatic efforts to limit fossil fuels due to its oil wealth, agreed to language concerning “transitioning away” from carbon-emitting energy sources.

However, Kerry remained cautious, recalling previous victories that had slipped away at the last moment. Yet, this time proved different.

Instead, the resulting agreement marked a significant milestone, what Kerry now regards as the culmination of three decades of global efforts to combat climate change, all achieved within a mere 48 hours.

“This was a major breakthrough,” Kerry affirmed, expressing readiness to step down from his climate diplomacy role after three years. His retirement plans were announced in January, with Wednesday marking his final day in office.

Reflecting on his tenure from his office at the U.S. State Department, Kerry highlighted the significance of the Dubai agreement. He underscored that unlike the 2015 Paris Agreement, which primarily required nations to implement self-written plans, the Dubai consensus mandated an urgent transition away from fossil fuels, encompassing all greenhouse gases.

Nevertheless, not everyone shares Kerry’s optimism regarding international climate efforts. Climate negotiations historian Joanna Depledge cautioned against overstating the significance of the Dubai agreement, describing it as “overblown.”

Kerry’s departure from his climate role doesn’t signify a complete disengagement from the issue. He intends to participate in future negotiations, albeit in a different capacity, with White House senior adviser John Podesta leading the U.S. delegation.

Looking ahead, Kerry emphasized the pivotal role of the private sector in implementing plans to reduce fossil fuel usage and promote renewable energy. He stressed the need for significant investment, estimated at $2 trillion to $5 trillion annually, to address climate change effectively.

Despite stepping down, Kerry’s continued involvement in climate affairs aligns with his longstanding dedication to environmental causes. Historian Douglas Brinkley noted that Kerry’s commitment to conservation dates back to the early days of his career, reflecting a deeply ingrained personal mission.

The absence of Kerry’s counterpart, Xie, raises questions about future agreements. Former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres highlighted the exceptional trust and rapport between Kerry and Xie, crucial for fostering international cooperation.

Recalling past challenges, Kerry emphasized the resilience required to navigate the complexities of climate negotiations. His decades-long career, marked by both successes and setbacks, has equipped him with the fortitude to persevere.

Looking beyond politics and diplomacy, Kerry emphasized his broader contributions, including his work as a prosecutor and involvement in various social causes. While retirement beckons, Kerry remains committed to constructive engagement, believing that purposeful action is essential for personal fulfillment.

Kerry’s dedication to climate action endures, underscoring his belief that meaningful engagement is fundamental to a fulfilling life.

 

U.N. Urges China to Address Human Rights Concerns in Xinjiang and Tibet

U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk urged China on Monday to enact suggested revisions to laws that infringe upon basic rights, particularly in regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.

In his address to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Turk emphasized the importance of implementing recommendations to rectify laws, policies, and practices that violate fundamental rights, echoing concerns raised by various human rights bodies regarding Xinjiang and Tibet. He stated, “I also call on the government to implement the recommendations made by my Office and other human rights bodies in relation to laws, policies and practises that violate fundamental rights, including in the Xinjiang and Tibet regions.”

China has faced persistent allegations from rights organizations regarding the mistreatment of Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group with a population of approximately 10 million in the Xinjiang region. Accusations include the widespread use of forced labor within camps. Beijing has consistently denied these allegations. The Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva declined to provide immediate comment in response to Turk’s remarks.

The situation in Tibet, which China annexed in 1950, has also drawn international scrutiny. While Beijing portrays the takeover as a “peaceful liberation” from feudalistic serfdom, human rights groups and exiles have continuously criticized what they perceive as oppressive governance in Tibetan regions.

Turk revealed ongoing dialogue between his office and Beijing regarding human rights concerns. Additionally, he urged for the release of individuals detained under charges of “picking quarrels and making trouble,” including human rights defenders and lawyers.

The call for action echoes a report issued in August 2022 by Michelle Bachelet, then U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was released just before the conclusion of her mandate. The report highlighted the possibility that China’s detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim groups might amount to crimes against humanity.

India Urges U.S. Action Against Pro-Khalistani Groups Amidst Homeland Security Dialogue

India has reiterated its call for the investigation of pro-Khalistani groups in the United States, alleging their involvement in inciting violence against India. This demand was emphasized during the India-U.S. Homeland Security Dialogue (HSD), a significant meeting where senior officials discussed ongoing cooperation in counter-terrorism and security measures. Alongside, both parties deliberated on tackling the surge in narcotics trafficking, notably the proliferation of Fentanyl, a potent drug posing a substantial challenge for the U.S.

“In this context, they discussed steps that can be taken to bolster bilateral efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism, drug trafficking, organised crime and ensure transportation security,” stated a Home Ministry release following the discussions. Leading the Indian delegation was Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, while the U.S. team was headed by Kristie Canegallo, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The dialogue also addressed the imperative to address issues such as illegal immigration, human trafficking, money laundering, cybercrimes, and the illicit exploitation of the cyber domain for various illegal activities, including financing terrorism.

However, the official statements didn’t touch upon the ongoing inquiry in the U.S. concerning the alleged “assassin for hire” case. U.S. authorities have accused an Indian individual, purportedly working for a senior Indian security official, of orchestrating the assassination of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the chief of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a pro-Khalistan separatist group based in the United States. Although the Ministry of External Affairs had declared in November its intention to launch a high-level investigation into these allegations, no further updates have been disclosed. Nonetheless, it’s understood that both sides maintain regular communication to discuss the progress of the case.

During the HSD talks, India also raised concerns about separatist factions operating within the U.S., including those responsible for recent assaults on Indian diplomatic missions. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had previously emphasized the importance of countries taking action against entities targeting Indian embassies, cautioning that failure to do so could tarnish their reputations. He specifically mentioned the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom in this regard, urging them to address attacks such as the storming of the Indian high commission in London and threats against Indian diplomats in Canada.

Established in 2011, the Homeland Security Dialogue serves as a platform for both countries to address various pressing issues. After a hiatus, it was reinstated in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Indian Embassy in Washington, focusing on topics such as cybersecurity, emerging technology, and combating violent extremism.

BRICS Alliance Contemplates Alternative Currency to Challenge US Dollar Dominance

The BRICS alliance is exploring the development of an alternative currency as a countermeasure against the dominance of the US dollar. Discussions within the bloc involve various strategies aimed at reducing reliance on the US dollar and advocating for the utilization of local currencies in global trade. Additionally, efforts are being made to persuade other developing nations to diminish their dependence on the US dollar and instead prioritize the use of their own currencies.

Reports suggest that BRICS is contemplating the establishment of a unified currency, akin to the Euro, as part of its endeavor to challenge the supremacy of the US dollar. However, it’s important to note that this potential shift towards a BRICS currency mirroring the Euro’s model remains speculative at this stage, with no definitive decision reached. The bloc is scheduled to convene at its upcoming summit in October, where discussions will continue, potentially leading to a consensus on this matter. This forthcoming 16th summit holds the promise of introducing transformative policies that could significantly reshape the trajectory of the alliance.

The ramifications of such policies could extend beyond the BRICS nations, impacting the Western sphere and the dominance of the US dollar in global transactions. A reduction in the international usage of the US dollar would pose considerable challenges to the American economy, potentially exerting significant strain throughout the current decade.

India Contemplates BRICS Currency: Finance Experts Engaged in Deliberation Ahead of Summit

India has mandated a group of financial analysts and research institutions to evaluate the potential of a proposed BRICS currency. The directive calls for experts in finance to deliberate on whether India should endorse the establishment of an upcoming BRICS currency.

According to a high-ranking government official speaking on condition of anonymity, this deliberation will carry significant weight at the forthcoming summit scheduled for October. India intends to be well-prepared with its stance at the 16th BRICS summit, set to be held in the Kazan region of Russia later this year.

Russia, a fellow member of BRICS, is also exploring the concept of a BRICS currency, prompted by the economic impact of US sanctions. Seeking a renewed and extensive dialogue, Russia has initiated discussions with India regarding the potential of such a currency.

A source quoted by Business Standard stated, “We have not changed our position at all, but there is no harm in a study.” While speculation suggests that the experts enlisted for this study could include senior officials from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the RBI declined to comment when contacted by Business Standard.

Hence, the identities of the financial experts tasked with assessing the viability of the BRICS currency remain undisclosed. India prefers to keep them anonymous, recognizing that undue attention could compromise the integrity of the study by potentially leading to media leaks.

The prospect of India’s acceptance of the new BRICS currency hangs in the balance as officials have yet to commence their examination this year. It may take six months or more for these officials to thoroughly comprehend the intricacies of the forthcoming global tender.

India may opt to keep its decisions confidential, revealing its stance only during the next BRICS summit. Consequently, the verdict on whether India will embrace or spurn the BRICS currency remains uncertain until all pertinent details are disclosed to the public.

US Higher Education Delegation Ventures to India to Forge Collaborative Partnerships

Officials from seventeen colleges and universities in the United States are set to embark on a seven-day journey to India as part of the Institute of International Education (IIE) Leadership Delegation. The aim is to foster and strengthen bilateral partnerships with higher education institutions in the country.

Scheduled from February 25, 2024, to March 2, 2024, the visit is part of the Center for International Partnership’s 2023–24 IIE Country Spotlight Series. The itinerary commences and concludes in New Delhi, with the delegation dividing its time between Mumbai and Hyderabad mid-week.

The primary focus of discussions will center on the convergence of higher education, business, and government, providing participants with insights into India’s rapidly evolving higher education landscape and avenues for collaboration. Moreover, the delegation will serve as a platform for leaders from the United States and India to engage face-to-face, foster meaningful relationships, and solidify their collaborative strategies.

Comprising 31 provosts, vice provosts, deans, and other senior officials from esteemed institutions like the University of California, Berkeley, University of Houston, Florida International University, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mississippi State University, and University of Missouri, the delegation represents a diverse array of expertise and perspectives.

The visit will feature addresses and panel discussions involving senior officials from the US Embassy and Consulates in India, the Government of India, and Indian higher education institutions. Key topics on the agenda include the establishment of international branch campuses in India and the impact of educational technology on higher education in the country.

During their stay, delegates will have the opportunity to visit US consulates as well as prominent Indian educational institutions such as the Indian School of Business, IIT Hyderabad, Mahindra University, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), and Somaiya Vidyavihar University.

Representing the New York-based non-profit organization, IIE, will be its co-presidents, Jason Czyz and A. Sarah Ilchman, alongside IIE India’s director, Vivek Mansukhani, senior vice president Jonah Kokodyniak, and the head of the IIE Center for International Partnerships, Sylvia Jons.

In a statement, the IIE underscored the demographic significance of India, with over 40 percent of its 1.4 billion population under the age of 25, leading to a demand for education that surpasses domestic supply. The organization also highlighted data from Open Doors, revealing a record-high enrollment of Indian students and scholars in US campuses.

“More than 265,000 Indian students pursued higher education in the US during the 2022–23 academic year, marking an unprecedented surge from the world’s fifth-largest economy and the most populous country. Additionally, with over 16,000 Indian scholars in the US during 2022–23, India ranks second only to China in this regard,” the statement emphasized.

India’s Global Temple Diplomacy: Strengthening Cultural Bonds Across Borders

India’s endeavors in constructing, inaugurating, and restoring its temples worldwide stand as a testament to its efforts in strengthening connections with its extensive diaspora of over 32 million and the estimated 1.2 billion Hindus globally.

Long before the colonial era and continuing long after, Hindus have migrated across the globe for various reasons, contributing significantly to the establishment of numerous temples in their adopted countries.

The global count of Hindu temples is estimated at around two million, with notable examples including Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, Indonesia’s Prambanan temple, Nepal’s Pashupatinath Temple, and Australia’s Shiva Vishnu Temple.

The tradition of Hindu temple construction dates back centuries, with Thailand witnessing the beginning in the third and fourth centuries AD, evidenced by early depictions of Lord Vishnu, while Vietnam’s Cham people erected several Hindu temples.

Reflecting on this dispersed cultural heritage, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar remarked during a visit to Cambodia in 2022, “There are temples not only in India and the Indian subcontinent but in many regions beyond.” He emphasized the significance of temple construction and restoration as a means to uphold the continuity of civilization beyond national borders.

For Hindus, these temples serve as vital centers for maintaining cultural identity, values, and traditions across generations. Kajal Dhadwal, a resident of Tanzania for over 14 years, finds solace and strength in temples like the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and the ISKON center in Arusha.

With the growing population of Hindus globally, there arises a greater demand for places of worship. According to data from the External Affairs Ministry, the number of Indians relocating abroad permanently was 2,25,620 in 2022 and 87,026 until June 2023.

In line with this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple, the BAPS Mandir, on February 14, underscoring the UAE’s significant role in fostering communal harmony. The UAE already hosts three other Hindu temples in Dubai, showcasing its commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

This event followed closely after Modi’s participation in the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, highlighting the significance of temple construction both domestically and internationally.

Further expanding the global footprint of Hindu temples, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham, the world’s largest Hindu temple outside India, was inaugurated in New Jersey’s Robbinsville Township in October of the previous year.

In a bid to preserve heritage and promote cultural exchange, Modi initiated a multi-million-dollar renovation project for Bahrain’s 200-year-old Shrinathji Temple in Manama in 2019.

The demand for temples abroad extends beyond providing places of worship; they also serve as showcases of Indian art and architecture, garnering international recognition and contributing to the cultural landscape of their host countries.

Recognizing the soft power potential, countries view the construction of Hindu temples as a means to bolster their economies, promote tourism, and enhance bilateral relations through increased people-to-people interactions.

Maldives Struggles with Financial Crisis Amidst Escalating Tensions with India

Maldives is facing unexpected turmoil due to recent actions that strained its relations with India, resulting in the declaration of bankruptcy by the island nation. The dispute, worsened by President Mohammed Muizzu’s ‘India Out’ campaign, has led to a critical financial situation prompting Maldives to seek a bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), exacerbating its economic woes.

President Muizzu’s ‘India Out’ campaign, aiming to remove Indian soldiers from Maldives and replace them with qualified technical staff from India by May 10, marked a significant escalation in tensions between the two countries. The situation worsened when three Maldivian ministers made controversial remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Lakshadweep.

Despite the subsequent expulsion of the three ministers, President Muizzu refrained from condemning their remarks, further straining India-Maldives relations. This deliberate provocation led to reports of Maldives declaring bankruptcy, prompting the government to turn to the IMF for financial assistance.

Under President Muizzu’s leadership, the once-positive relations between India and Maldives have dramatically shifted. His anti-India stance, evident in efforts to expel the Indian army and controversial ministerial comments, has severely strained diplomatic ties.

The fallout from these actions has caused widespread dissent among Indians, resulting in many canceling trips to Maldives, significantly impacting the nation’s tourism industry. India, previously a major source of tourists for Maldives, has seen a sharp decline in visitor numbers, slipping from the top spot to fifth place last year.

The combination of financial implications and strained diplomatic relations presents multifaceted challenges for Maldives, affecting both its economic stability and diplomatic standing.

Trump Threatens to Abandon NATO Allies Over Defense Spending, Sparks Concerns Over Alliance’s Future

Former President Donald Trump has asserted that the United States would not come to the defense of NATO allies in the event of a Russian attack if those allies failed to meet his criteria for defense spending. This declaration, made during a campaign rally in Conway, S.C., raises significant concerns about the future of the alliance should Trump be reelected in 2024.

Trump’s stance on NATO spending has been a longstanding point of contention, with him consistently criticizing other member countries for not meeting defense spending targets and inaccurately claiming that there are outstanding balances owed by allies. However, his recent remarks take this criticism a step further, suggesting that Russia should be encouraged to attack countries that are “delinquent” in their contributions.

During the rally, Trump recounted a hypothetical scenario where a country asked if the U.S. would protect them in the event of a Russian attack due to unpaid contributions. Trump’s response was blunt: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

Trump also claimed that his threats led to a significant increase in NATO spending, stating that “hundreds of billions” flowed into the alliance as a result. However, data shows that NATO spending was already on the rise before Trump took office in 2016.

The issue of NATO spending has been a focal point since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. In response, NATO countries pledged to increase defense spending to 2% of their gross domestic product by 2024. Yet, according to data from July 2023, only 11 out of the 31 member countries have met this target. Notably, the United States contributes 3.49% of its GDP to defense, while several other countries, including France, Germany, and Canada, have fallen short.

The White House swiftly condemned Trump’s remarks, describing them as “unhinged” and emphasizing President Joe Biden’s commitment to strengthening NATO. White House spokesman Andrew Bates emphasized that Biden’s approach prioritizes American leadership and national security interests.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed these sentiments, stating that any suggestion of allies not defending each other undermines collective security and increases risks for American and European soldiers.

Trump’s comments on NATO come amid a campaign rally in South Carolina, just weeks before the state’s Republican presidential primary. At the rally, he reiterated his hardline stance on immigration, promising to reverse Biden administration policies and implement aggressive deportation measures.

Trump also addressed the legal challenges he faces, including numerous criminal indictments, attributing them to bolstering his poll numbers rather than seeking revenge against Biden.

These remarks on foreign policy coincide with congressional struggles to advance aid packages for Israel and Ukraine, issues Trump claims would not have arisen under his administration’s leadership.

New Jersey-India Commission Formed to Strengthen Bilateral Ties and Economic Collaboration

The relationship between New Jersey and India is deeply intertwined, with numerous connections and partnerships that underscore their significance. Approximately 5% of New Jersey’s population is South Asian, with significant clusters in dynamic locales like Edison/Iselin, Jersey City, and Robbinsville. Moreover, India stands as the state’s second-largest foreign direct investor, with New Jersey boasting the highest concentration of Indian businesses across the nation. This robust connection translates into substantial bilateral trade, amounting to over $10 billion annually.

Recognizing the importance of fostering and nurturing this relationship, New Jersey recently established the New Jersey-India Commission, marking the third commission of its kind in the state’s history. Notably, India is the sole nation boasting two Choose New Jersey offices, underscoring the depth of collaboration between the two entities. Governor Phil Murphy emphasized the significance of this move, stating, “This is a statement about the breadth, scale and size of not just the relationship as it is today — everything from the diaspora living here, to the jobs created, to the trade between India and New Jersey — but also a statement about the potential future growth of all of the above.”

The commission comprises 39 distinguished members hailing from diverse industries, with Wes Mathews, CEO of Choose New Jersey, appointed as its chairperson. Governor Murphy indicated that the appointment of an executive director would follow. Notable figures on the commission include state senators Vin Gopal and Raj Mukherji, along with representatives from prominent organizations such as RWJ Barnabas Health, Hackensack Meridian Health, and Princeton University.

Consul General Binaya Srikanta Prasad expressed his support for the establishment of the commission, highlighting the importance of further strengthening ties between New Jersey and India. Leading the commission is Wes Mathews, whose extensive experience in diplomacy and leadership roles uniquely positions him to guide the commission’s endeavors. With roots in Kerala, Wes has held diplomatic posts in several countries, including Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan.

The commission boasts a diverse lineup of members, representing a wide array of fields and expertise. Notable individuals include Vidya Kishore, who brings over 18 years of experience from Johnson & Johnson and is committed to fostering connections between New Jersey and India. Krishna Kishore, with over 25 years of global corporate experience, including stints at Bellcore, Deloitte, and PwC, is eager to contribute his expertise to bolster economic and cultural exchanges between New Jersey and India.

The commission’s formation underscores the deep-rooted connections and mutual benefits that exist between New Jersey and India. By leveraging the expertise and resources of its members, the commission aims to further enhance bilateral cooperation and capitalize on the vast potential for growth and collaboration between these two dynamic regions.

Canada’s Intelligence Service Accuses India of Election Interference; PM Trudeau Orders Inquiry

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s premier foreign intelligence agency, has raised concerns about potential interference by India in the country’s recent election, according to a recent intelligence report. The report, made available to the media on Thursday, identified India as a ‘foreign interference threat’ and emphasized the need for greater protection of Canada’s democratic institutions and processes.

In a top-secret briefing document obtained by Canadian media outlet Global News, it was further highlighted that India’s interference could escalate if left unchecked. This revelation marks the first time India has been implicated in election interference in Canada, joining China and Russia, which were already under scrutiny for similar activities.

The declassified report, titled ‘Briefing to the Minister of Democratic Institutions on Foreign Interference,’ dated February 24, 2023, also singles out China, labeling it as “by far the most significant threat.”

According to the report, China’s foreign interference activities are extensive and resource-intensive, targeting various levels of government and civil society nationwide. The term ‘FI’ refers to foreign interference, with ‘PRC’ representing the People’s Republic of China.

Notably, India and China were the only countries explicitly named in the latest intelligence briefing.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has responded to these allegations by initiating an inquiry into the claims outlined in the recently disclosed intelligence report.

Relations between India and Canada have been strained since September 2023, following Trudeau’s accusations of potential Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India has vehemently denied these allegations, dismissing them as baseless and driven by ulterior motives.

US and UK Conduct Joint Strikes on Houthi Targets in Yemen, Escalating Regional Tensions

The United States and the United Kingdom have executed strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen utilizing aerial and surface platforms, including fighter jets, backed by several other nations. According to two US officials, a minimum of 30 targets were hit across at least 10 locations.

The targeted sites encompassed command and control infrastructure, an underground depot for storing weapons, and other armaments utilized by the Houthis to threaten international shipping routes, as stated by an official.

The coalition, comprising the US, UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea while issuing a warning to the Houthi leadership regarding their actions. The statement emphasized their determination to safeguard lives and ensure the unhindered flow of commerce through one of the world’s vital waterways.

In the operation against Houthi targets in Yemen, two US destroyers, the USS Gravely and USS Carney, fired Tomahawk missiles, serving as a component of the offensive, as per a US official. Additionally, F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier were engaged in the strikes.

Preceding these strikes, the US intercepted six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles before they could be launched towards the Red Sea, as confirmed by US Central Command.

These successive strikes come in response to a drone attack that claimed the lives of three US service members and injured many more, prompting the Biden administration to adopt a nuanced approach. Instead of targeting Iran directly, the US is focusing on influential proxies supported by Tehran, signaling a message to Iran’s leadership through indirect means.

While the strikes in Yemen are distinct from those in Iraq and Syria, both operations target Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asserted that the recent strikes aim to disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Houthi militia, emphasizing a collective resolve to impose consequences if the Houthi attacks on international shipping and naval vessels persist.

President Joe Biden authorized Saturday’s strikes earlier in the week, emphasizing that they are a direct response to Houthi actions and not indicative of a desire for escalation.

Mohammed Al Bukhaiti, a prominent figure in the Houthi Political Council, reiterated the group’s determination in the face of coalition strikes, emphasizing their commitment to ongoing military operations against Israel until certain conditions are met.

Separately, the US conducted unilateral strikes against sites in Syria and Iraq, hitting over 85 targets, including command centers and weapons facilities. While the administration deemed these strikes successful, it pledged further action against Iranian-backed groups in the region.

Austin characterized Friday’s strikes as the beginning of a broader response, without specifying the timeline for subsequent actions.

Approximately 24 hours after the initial strikes in Iraq and Syria, the US carried out additional strikes in Yemen. These strikes mark the third instance in recent weeks of joint US-UK operations targeting Houthi sites. In previous rounds, the coalition targeted weapons storage facilities and radar sites to impede Houthi attacks on critical waterways.

Despite these efforts, the Houthis have remained resolute, expressing defiance towards the US and UK, reaffirming their determination to confront what they perceive as aggression.

In addition to major strikes, the US has undertaken smaller-scale operations targeting Houthi drones. Recent actions included intercepting drones deemed an imminent threat to shipping lanes and US warships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

BRICS Welcomes Saudi Arabia, Sparking Interest from 34 Developing Nations in Alliance

Saudi Arabia has officially joined BRICS, the alliance of emerging economies, a move that has piqued the interest of numerous developing nations. This development has sparked discussions about the potential ramifications for global trade dynamics, particularly regarding the dominance of the US dollar.

The inclusion of Saudi Arabia has led to a surge in interest from other developing countries to become part of the BRICS alliance. The reasons behind this growing attraction towards BRICS lie in concerns over mounting U.S. dollar debt and the imposition of sanctions by the White House on emerging economies.

The prospect of more countries settling trade in their local currencies, as advocated by BRICS, poses a significant threat to the supremacy of the US dollar. A shift of this nature would have profound implications for various sectors in the United States.

According to CNN, a total of 34 countries have expressed their desire to join BRICS as of February 1, 2024. South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, confirmed this development during a recent press conference. However, specific details regarding the identities of these countries were not disclosed during the joint press briefing.

The mounting interest from developing nations to align with BRICS reflects their eagerness to adapt to evolving financial landscapes. BRICS is leading a global transition away from reliance on the US dollar towards prioritizing transactions in local currencies. This paradigm shift poses a direct challenge to the established financial order traditionally dominated by Western powers.

The overarching goal of the BRICS bloc is to establish a new world order characterized by multipolarity, effectively sidelining the US dollar. Consequently, the forthcoming years will be crucial in determining the fate of the US dollar, with developing countries increasingly prioritizing their own currencies. The next decade could witness a significant struggle as the US dollar fights to maintain its status as the global reserve currency.

US Approves $4 Billion Sale of Drones to India Amidst Allegations, Strengthening Military Ties in Face of China

The United States gave its approval on Thursday for a significant $4 billion transaction involving cutting-edge drones destined for India, a move aimed at bolstering India’s military capabilities vis-à-vis China. This approval comes after a delay attributed to an alleged plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader on US soil.

This sale signifies a notable shift in India’s procurement strategy from its traditional reliance on Russian arms, which have increasingly faced scrutiny due to sanctions stemming from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The discussions regarding the drones began during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit last year, at the invitation of President Joe Biden. These talks gained urgency against the backdrop of skirmishes between India and both China and Pakistan.

Following extensive deliberations with US lawmakers and Indian authorities, the State Department formally notified Congress about the sale, comprising 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardians, the most advanced variant of General Atomics’ Predator drones.

According to a statement from the State Department, “The proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation.” It further asserted, “India has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

While India has historically enjoyed bipartisan support in the US Congress, the sale encountered a setback following allegations by US prosecutors of a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader with US citizenship on American soil. The Justice Department went as far as to allege remote direction of the plan by an Indian government official.

India responded to these allegations with a more measured approach compared to its vehement reaction to similar accusations by Canada in the past. However, some US lawmakers questioned the seriousness with which both the Modi government and the Biden administration addressed these allegations, leading to a temporary halt in the informal approval of the sale.

Despite this, observers anticipate that Congress will not obstruct the sale within the 30-day window it has to do so. Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, commented, “The notification gets the sale back on track, but it could still encounter some choppy seas in Congress. The assassination allegations against India continue to cast a shadow over US-India relations.” He added, “Strategic imperatives tend to carry the day in this partnership, and that will likely ensure the sale eventually goes through, but one can’t rule out the possibility of some hiccups during the finalization process.”

Regarding the approval process, Randhir Jaiswal, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, stated that the United States was following its “internal processes,” refraining from further elaboration.

The drones in question, Sea Guardians, possess the capability to monitor seas, submarines, and remain airborne for up to 35 hours, equipped to fire Hellfire missiles and carry approximately 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) of bombs.

India’s navy has been operating two Predator drones on lease, utilizing them to monitor the Arabian Sea, safeguarding ships from potential threats posed by Yemen’s Huthi rebels and Somali pirates.

In 2019, India made headlines by conducting airstrikes in Pakistani airspace, marking a departure from past precedents. Additionally, tensions along the Himalayan frontier between India and China, the two most populous nations globally, have been escalating, highlighted by a deadly clash in 2020 that claimed the lives of 20 Indian troops and at least four Chinese soldiers.

Despite concerns expressed by some US lawmakers regarding Modi’s human rights record, US policymakers generally view India as a strategic partner due to shared apprehensions about China.

CIA Chief Warns: China Poses Greater Long-Term Threat Than Russia, Agency Ramps Up Resources

The head of the CIA, William J. Burns, emphasized the escalating concerns regarding China’s threat to the United States, surpassing that of Russia, and the agency’s heightened efforts to counter it. Burns, in an op-ed for Foreign Affairs, underscored the shifting dynamics of global security, stating, “While Russia may pose the most immediate challenge, China is the bigger long-term threat.”

He disclosed that the CIA has significantly increased its allocation of resources towards intelligence gathering, operations, and analysis pertaining to China. Burns noted, “The CIA has committed substantially more resources toward China-related intelligence collection, operations, and analysis around the world — more than doubling the percentage of our overall budget focused on China over just the last two years.”

In response to this strategic pivot, the CIA has prioritized recruiting and training individuals proficient in Mandarin. Burns elucidated that the agency is intensifying its activities globally to rival China, extending from Latin America to Africa and across the Indo-Pacific region.

Burns’ sentiments regarding China echo those expressed by Richard Moore, the head of MI6, the British intelligence agency. Moore highlighted the increasing significance of China on the global stage, affirming, “We now devote more resources to China than any other mission.” He emphasized the critical necessity of comprehending both the intentions and capabilities of the Chinese government.

The apprehension towards Chinese espionage has mounted in the West, evident in various incidents. Last February, the US military intercepted a Chinese surveillance balloon that had penetrated the airspace over the continental US. Subsequently, in June, The Wall Street Journal reported China’s purported plans to establish a spy base in Cuba. The alleged objective of the base would be to intercept signals from military installations in the southeastern US, raising concerns about China’s expanding espionage activities.

Despite the significance of Burns’ assertions, representatives for the CIA did not provide immediate comments in response to inquiries from Business Insider submitted beyond standard business hours.

https://www.businessinsider.in/politics/world/news/china-is-a-greater-threat-to-the-us-than-russia-and-thats-why-the-cia-doubled-its-budget-for-it-agency-chief-says/articleshow/107280838.cms

UN Court Urges Israel to Prevent Genocide in Gaza, Halts Short of Ceasefire Mandate

The highest court of the United Nations on Friday issued a directive to Israel, urging it to take all possible measures to prevent fatalities, devastation, and any acts of genocide in Gaza. However, the panel refrained from mandating an end to the military offensive devastating the Palestinian territory.

Court President Joan E. Donoghue expressed profound concern over the ongoing loss of life and human suffering in the region. This ruling, arising from a genocide case initiated by South Africa, constitutes a significant censure of Israel’s conduct during wartime, escalating international pressure to cease the nearly four-month-long offensive that has resulted in over 26,000 Palestinian casualties and displaced around 85% of Gaza’s population.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the court’s willingness to address genocide charges as a lasting disgrace, vowing to persist with the war effort. The timing of the ruling, coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, amplified its impact.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the legally binding nature of the court’s decisions, expressing trust in Israel’s compliance. Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged a focus on prosecuting Hamas militants responsible for deadly attacks on Israeli civilians.

The court also called for the release of hostages still held by Hamas and urged international pressure on Israel to adhere to its directives. While most measures received overwhelming judicial support, Israeli Judge Aharon Barak endorsed two orders, emphasizing their potential to mitigate tensions and alleviate suffering.

Although legally binding, compliance with these provisional measures remains uncertain. Netanyahu affirmed Israel’s determination to defend itself, employing a more defiant tone in Hebrew for domestic audiences.

The court mandated Israel to prevent genocide and refrain from harming Palestinians, facilitate urgent humanitarian aid to Gaza, and address any incitement to genocide, among other measures. Israel is required tosubmit a report on its actions within a month, with potential consequences for non-compliance.

Legal experts anticipate years of proceedings to address South Africa’s genocide allegations fully. The U.N. Security Council is slated to convene to discuss the ruling’s implications.

In Israel, commentators expressed relief over the absence of a cease-fire mandate, which could have led to a clash with the U.N. Palestinians and their supporters welcomed the court’s decision as a step towards holding Israel accountable.

The U.S. reiterated its stance on minimizing harm to civilians, increasing humanitarian aid, and curtailing dehumanizing rhetoric but maintained that allegations of genocide are baseless.

The South African government hailed the ruling as implicating Israel in potentially genocidal actions, refuting Israel’s claims of compliance with international law.

While Israel often boycotts international tribunals, it sent a high-level legal team in recognition of the case’s gravity. The Health Ministry in Gaza, under Hamas control, reports a death toll without distinguishing between combatants and civilians, with a significant proportion being women and children.

Israeli military sources assert that a substantial number of casualties were Hamas militants. U.N. officials fear further loss of life due to disease and malnutrition, with a significant portion of Gaza’s population facing starvation.

Law professor Yuval Shany opined that the court’s decision, though concerning, falls short of Israel’s worst fears and is unlikely to significantly alter military operations.

The court’s ruling represents a significant condemnation of Israel’s actions in Gaza, adding pressure to cease hostilities and address humanitarian concerns, while legal proceedings are expected to continue in the coming years.

https://religionnews.com/2024/01/27/un-court-orders-israel-to-prevent-genocide-in-gaza-but-stops-short-of-ordering-cease-fire/

ICJ Directive Puts Pressure on Israel: U.S. Support Tested Amid Calls for Gaza Ceasefire

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a directive to Israel, compelling it to enhance its protection of civilians within the Gaza Strip amidst its conflict with Hamas. The court has granted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration a one-month window to furnish a comprehensive plan in response to this mandate.

This deadline presents a significant challenge to President Biden’s backing of Israel’s offensive, especially in light of escalating global pressure for a cessation of hostilities. The United States has been a vocal advocate for respecting decisions emanating from international judicial bodies, adding weight to the ICJ’s verdict.

Stephen Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, emphasized the significance of this decision for Israel, stressing that compliance holds substantial consequences in international relations. He noted that key U.S. allies would anticipate Israel’s adherence to the ICJ’s directives, cautioning that defiance could isolate the Israeli government diplomatically.

Despite South Africa’s plea for a ceasefire, which was part of its accusations against Israel presented to the ICJ, the court’s ruling did not explicitly demand one. However, South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, asserted that implementing a ceasefire is imperative to fulfill the court’s stipulations, emphasizing the need to mitigate harm to innocent civilians.

The Biden administration has expressed concerns about the humanitarian toll of the conflict, urging Israel to take greater measures to safeguard civilians. While the U.S. acknowledges Israel’s right to self-defense, it advocates for actions aimed at minimizing civilian casualties and facilitating humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The administration’s stance aligns with the ICJ’s ruling, albeit it has rebuffed efforts to impose direct action against Israel, notably at the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. favors “humanitarian pauses” over a blanket ceasefire, aiming to balance Israel’s security concerns with the urgent humanitarian needs of Gaza’s population.

Critics contend that Israel’s military operations have inflicted extensive damage, necessitating an immediate ceasefire to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. They also oppose U.S. military aid to Israel, citing the ICJ’s acknowledgment of potential violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The ICJ’s ruling has prompted reactions within the United States, with some calling for a reassessment of military aid to Israel to avoid complicity in potential violations of international law. Calls for a ceasefire have resonated among Democratic lawmakers, with proposals for increased congressional oversight on arms sales and aid to Israel gaining traction.

While the majority of Congress opposes compelling Israel into a ceasefire, there’s growing concern among Democrats regarding Israel’s conduct of the conflict. Senators are exploring avenues to enhance congressional oversight and ensure that U.S. military assistance aligns with international humanitarian standards.

The ICJ’s comprehensive ruling on the allegation of genocide against Palestinians is anticipated to unfold over several years. Proponents of Israel’s right to self-defense view the initial verdict as a cautionary signal, acknowledging the mounting concern over civilian casualties and humanitarian conditions.

Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, cautioned against complacency, emphasizing the real political implications of the international community’s concerns regarding civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Eminent Indian Physician Leaders in USA organize a FAREWELL for MR. AMBASSADOR!

Hon. Ambassador Taranjit S. Sandhu is retiring at the end of the month as an Ambassador to USA after 4 years. He has had an illustrious career having served as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and DCM as well as other    Prestigious positions in USA

Eminenet physician leaders joined  on Zoom on Jan 17th Wednesday

Organised by

Dr Sudhir Sekhsaria, Dr Raj Bhayani

Dr Manbir Takhar

Dr Hemant Dhingra

Dr Narendra Kumar

About 30 physician leaders from USA joined the meeting

Meeting was initiated by Dr Sudhir Sekhseria with warm welcome and introduction of all participants and greetings to hnorable ambassador.

Dr Raj Bhayani expressed gratitude to Ambassador for his amazing leadership in making Indo-US leadership stronger and applauded his role in making Prime Minister Modi ji historic visit to white house.a grand success.

Dr Narednra Kumar emphasized the role of Ambassador in uniting all different factions of Indian communities in USA.

image0 (3)Dr Hemant Dhingra said in his remarks how the economic ties between two countries have reached a new high under leadership of Ambassador

Dr Manbir Thakkar elaborated how Indian community had warm reception at India House in Washington DC and bond between India House and community has been strongest ever during the last four years..

Dr Vinod Shah appreciated the services of Ambassador to Indian Physicians in USA.

Dr Harbhajan Ajrawat who knows Ambassador for a long time gave a historical perspective of life of Ambassador

As Taranjit Singh Sandhu is finishing his current assignment as the Ambassador of India to the United States of America, I would like to take this opportunity to wish him farewell and success in any future endeavor he may choose to undertake.  It is no secret and much has been said about his illustrious career in the Indian Foreign Service. This was his second appointment as Ambassador, his first being Ambassador to Sri Lanka. He was posted to the United States four times, three times with the Indian Embassy in Washington DC.  During his tenure in Washington, he was not only instrumental in bringing the Indian Diaspora in the United States together but also bringing the two great democracies together as well.  Due to his untiring efforts, and his diplomatic acumen he was able to mitigate and thwart quite a few obstacles that threatened the relationship of the two countries. At present India continues to enjoy a very good relationship with the United States. That he was able to make this meaningful contribution is no small task and is easy to understand once one is familiar with his rich family legacy and heritage.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu belongs to a prominent Sikh family with deep roots in Punjab, India. He is the grandson of Sardar Teja Singh Samundri.  Sardar Teja Singh Samundri was a prominent leader and visionary who played a key role in the Gurdwara Reform Movement (GRM) which returned the Sikh religious institutions to their democratic roots and brought  the sikh community into the freedom struggle and thereby altered the perception of Sikhs in Colonial India. In honor of his work and contribution to the sikh community, he is the only non-guru in whose honor a building inside the sacred Golden Temple complex has been named The Teja Singh Samundri Hall. Besides his role in the GRM movement, Sardar Teja Singh Samundri was very much involved in bringing education, knowledge and information to the common man. Even though he had limited education himself, he opened several schools to educate the masses and was instrumental in launching the newspaper Hindustan Times which was later acquired by M.M.Malaviya and later GD Birla. Much of this was through personal sacrifice and putting up his own funds. This promising young life came to a tragic end, under mysterious circumstances, at the young age of 44, while imprisoned by the British in a Lahore jail.  Nevertheless, his legacy continued through his son, Sardar Bishan Singh Samundri who was awarded a scholarship to study at Ohio State University. After acquiring his Masters degree, he returned to India and became the Principal of Khalsa College Amritsar, Punjab. He eventually became the founding Vice Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab. Sardar Bishan Singh was the father of Taranjit Singh Sandhu. Taranjit’s mother, Jagjit Sandhu, also having studied abroad, retired as Principal of Government College for Women in Amritsar, Punjab.

Mr Gary Sikka president of American Punjabi Association emphasized the role of Ambassador in uniting the Hindu Sikh community and his visit to New York Gurudwara.

In concluding remarks Ambassador expressed his gratitude to Indian community in USA. He applauded the strength of the Indian diaspora. It is the bond of Indian diaspora which has been very powerful in making the Indo us relationship stronger. He highlighted the role and sacrifice  of Indian physicians during covid in serving humanity. He emphasised the strength of Indian physician community in USA which has helped him to create closer ties between INdia and USA.

Dr Sudhir Sekhseria thanked Ambassador and all eminent physicians for joining the farewell for Ambassador and everyone expressed that they all are in solidarity and supportive of next endeavour of Ambassador in serving our motherland

The Imperative Voice of the Global South: Navigating Challenges and Prioritizing Sustainable Development

In the dynamic landscape of international relations, the voices and concerns of the Global South, representing developing countries in the United Nations (UN), have grown increasingly vital. These nations, collectively forging a narrative of peace, security, and development, underscore the need for a more inclusive and equitable international cooperation framework.

The roots of the Global South’s collective identity trace back to the UN General Assembly in December 1963, when pivotal amendments were introduced to the UN Charter, enhancing representation in key UN organs. The subsequent formation of the Group of 77 developing countries (G-77) in June 1964 marked a significant milestone, advocating structural reforms in the UN to support socio-economic development.

Fast-forward to today, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), established in 1965, stands as a beacon of support for socio-economic activities in 170 countries, predominantly in the Global South. Its collaborative efforts with specialized UN agencies impact various facets of human endeavor on the ground.

The Global South’s pursuit of accelerated development faced challenges during the Charter of Algiers adoption in October 1967, where the call for a New International Economic Order clashed with environmental concerns raised by developed countries. The assertion that “poverty is the biggest polluter” resonated, setting the stage for the 1986 recognition of the “right to development” as an “inalienable human right.”

In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Agenda 2030, embodying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aligning global priorities with those of the Global South. Key to the SDGs’ realization are commitments for financial resource flows and technology transfers to the Global South, essential components of Agenda 2030.

However, the Global South’s concerns have intensified in light of the challenges faced, as articulated during the UN’s SDG Summit in September 2023. The unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a surge in violent conflicts, particularly in the Global South, have jeopardized SDG attainment.

Disturbingly, conflicts on the UN Security Council’s agenda affected 314 million people in 2022, a significant increase from the 60 million in 2015. The World Bank reported that the Covid-19 pandemic pushed an additional 90 million people, predominantly in the Global South, below the poverty line.

Ongoing conflicts across continents, notably in Ukraine and Gaza, underscore the UNSC’s increasing ineffectiveness. Calls for UNSC reforms, including the question of the veto, have fallen on deaf ears, fostering aggressive protectionism and militarism in developed countries. Despite opposition, Global South countries supported initiatives like the Vaccine Waiver in June 2022 and condemned unilateral coercive measures in December 2023.

India, at the forefront of coordinating Global South responses, hosted two Voice of the Global South Summits in 2023, addressing concerns and seeking solutions through multilateral reform. The G-20 Summit in September 2023 witnessed the inclusion of the African Union as its 21st member, expanding the grouping’s focus in favor of the Global South.

Looking ahead, the Global South’s leaders aim to reshape multilateral institutions, with the UN Summit of the Future in September 2024 as a pivotal moment. Their objective is to mandate the convening of a UN General Conference in 2025, fostering dialogue and diplomacy to revitalize the United Nations. Such initiatives are crucial for reinstating the integrity of an integrated international framework that prioritizes the pressing concerns of the Global South.

IMEC: Paving the Way for Global Prosperity through Economic Connectivity

Economic corridors are emerging as transformative agents, capable of fostering increased trade, foreign investment, and societal improvement across participating nations. The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) stands out as a beacon of economic integration, promising to revolutionize interactions among India, the Middle East, and Europe. As we delve into the details of IMEC, its potential as a catalyst for global prosperity becomes increasingly apparent.

At its core, IMEC seeks to establish a multi-modal transport network, seamlessly integrating sea and rail routes, accompanied by innovative infrastructural components like hydrogen pipelines and advanced IT connections. The corridor’s game-changing potential is highlighted by its ability to significantly reduce transit times for goods, offering a more efficient alternative to the Suez Canal and projecting a 40% reduction in transit times. This efficiency not only expedites trade but also renders it more cost-effective, setting the stage for robust economic growth and expanded trade opportunities.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s characterization of IMEC as a “game-changing investment” underscores its potential to influence not only the regions it directly connects but also the global community. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) emphasizes the establishment of a “reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network,” showcasing the corridor’s potential to reshape global supply chains and international trade dynamics.

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen further emphasizes the corridor’s significance, branding it the “quickest link between India, the Middle East, and Europe.” This accolade positions IMEC as a major catalyst in reducing logistical costs and streamlining trade routes.

Beyond its role in trade facilitation, IMEC holds the promise of driving industrial growth and employment in participating regions. By providing an efficient mechanism for transporting raw materials and finished goods, the corridor is poised to stimulate industrial activity, addressing prevalent employment challenges. The correlation between enhanced transportation infrastructure and economic growth suggests that IMEC’s impact on job creation and industrial development could be substantial.

IMEC’s strategic importance extends to energy security and environmental sustainability. Access to the Middle East’s abundant energy resources is enhanced, bolstering the energy security of participating nations. The corridor’s emphasis on clean energy transportation aligns with global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, presenting a model for sustainable development.

Furthermore, IMEC’s potential to attract foreign investment and strengthen diplomatic ties positions it as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, reshaping global trade dynamics and reducing dependency on traditional maritime routes. The corridor’s focus on cultural integration fosters connections among diverse cultures and civilizations, contributing to enhanced regional connectivity and peace.

IMEC is evidence of India’s strategic realignment towards the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCCs), under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. This evolving relationship encompasses security cooperation, cultural ties, and technological exchanges, transcending a simplistic framework of oil trade and market access.

In the context of a shifting global landscape, IMEC represents a transition from a unipolar or bipolar world to a more multipolar system. By knitting together diverse economic, cultural, and political strengths, the corridor contributes to a balanced and resilient global system.

However, the success of IMEC is contingent upon the geopolitical stability of the Middle East. The region’s historical political unrest underscores the global necessity for peace in the Middle East. A stable Middle East is vital for ensuring secure trade routes, reliable energy resources, and unhindered knowledge and people exchange. It creates an environment conducive to the economic and technological collaborations envisioned by IMEC and contributes to global economic stability.

In conclusion, IMEC stands as a testament to the transformative power of economic connectivity, promising to shape a more prosperous and interconnected world. As leaders and nations come together to support this initiative, the potential for IMEC to catalyze global prosperity becomes increasingly tangible, fostering a future of shared economic growth, cultural integration, and geopolitical stability.

Global Voting Trends Expats’ Influence on Home Elections

In this pivotal year for global politics, over 60 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population, are gearing up for elections at various levels—presidential, legislative, and local. From the vast scale of the United States to the more modest dimensions of North Macedonia, political landscapes are evolving. The impact of these elections extends beyond borders, particularly with the significant influence of diaspora populations.

Last year, India surpassed China as the most populous country, reaching a population of 1,425,775,850, with an additional 29 million Indians residing outside their homeland. Kathleen Newland, co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, notes the increasing desire of diaspora populations to actively participate in their home countries’ affairs, stating, “They want to have a say in what happens there.” The evolution of voting rights for overseas nationals is evident, growing from 21 nations in 1980 to 141 in 2020.

The manner in which expats cast their votes varies widely across countries. While some, like El Salvador and Moldova, facilitate electronic voting or voting at consulates and embassies, others, such as India, require in-person voting, demanding expatriates to return to their home country. Arvind Panagariya, a Columbia University Economics professor, residing in New York, shares his expectation to vote in person during India’s upcoming elections.

Navigating the complex electoral landscape in India falls largely on individuals, as Newland observes, highlighting the need for initiative. India, with its vast and intricate election process, will witness a monumental undertaking between April and May, involving up to 630 million voters out of its 900 million eligible citizens. The elections, spanning six phases, require the deployment of 11 million election workers and officials, including security forces.

India’s parliamentary system designates executive powers to the Prime Minister, who is appointed based on the political party or coalition securing an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. With approximately 500 political parties vying for 543 seats in the lower house, electoral workers must navigate challenging terrains, resorting to various modes of transport, including helicopters, trains, boats, walking, and even elephants, to ensure all eligible voters can cast their ballots.

Despite the active engagement of the Indian diaspora on social media platforms, Panagariya and Newland argue that its impact on the election outcome may be limited. Panagariya emphasizes that most electoral battles in India are still fought in physical spaces, downplaying the influence of overseas votes. However, in closely contested elections, the diaspora’s voice could potentially sway the results.

Communication professor Rohit Chopra suggests that narratives circulating in the international space, such as discussions on COVID-19 and the deep state, may find their way into Indian political conversations. Intriguingly, the perception of India as a strong state and Prime Minister Modi as a robust leader may have originated within the Indian diaspora.

Eligibility criteria for overseas voters in India include being an Indian citizen living abroad for education or employment, not having acquired foreign citizenship, and being 18 years old on January 1 of the election year. Registration involves filling out Form 6A, available from the Election Commission of India. This form must be submitted to the Electoral Registration Officer of the constituency where the applicant’s residence in India falls, either in person or by post.

As the world watches these elections unfold, the influence of diaspora populations, their voting methods, and their engagement in shaping narratives will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the democratic processes of their home countries.

Transformation in India-US Relations: A Shift Towards Equality and Collaboration

In a significant revelation, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar emphasized a perceptible change in the way America perceives India today, highlighting that the two countries now engage on a more equal footing. Speaking at the Manthan: Townhall meeting in Nagpur, Maharashtra, Jaishankar shared his observations from the visit to the United States in June, accompanying Prime Minister Modi.

“Last June, when I went to the US with PM Modi, I felt there is a difference in the way in which America views India today. The level of how we deal with each other is more equal,” noted Jaishankar during the townhall meeting.

This shift in dynamics, according to Jaishankar, is underpinned by the acknowledgment of India’s crucial role in the global technology landscape. Furthermore, he highlighted the evolving enthusiasm among American businesses for India, signifying a positive change in bilateral interactions.

“The level of how we deal with each other is more equal,” reiterated Jaishankar, emphasizing the growing parity between the two nations.

On the historical context of India-US relations, Jaishankar remarked on the transformation from a challenging and somewhat negative relationship post-Independence in 1947. He credited the beginning of this shift to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as the Indian Prime Minister, particularly citing the nuclear deal as a pivotal moment.

Speaking on India-US relations, he said: “What was a very difficult, almost negative relationship from 1947 till the next 50 years, started changing under Atal ji and the change continued thereafter. We saw the nuclear deal.”

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, serving three terms as the Indian Prime Minister, played a crucial role in reshaping the narrative, with a notable period from 1998 to 2004.

The Indo-US nuclear agreement, initiated in July 2005 during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US, focused on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This agreement laid the foundation for enhanced cooperation between the two nations in subsequent years.

The recent statements by President Joe Biden underscore the significance of the friendship between the United States and India, deeming it among the most consequential globally. The two countries have signed several major deals aimed at elevating their strategic technology partnership.

Earlier, the United States expressed support for India’s emergence as a leading global power and a vital partner in promoting a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The US-India relationship is characterized as one of the most strategic and consequential of the 21st century, according to a fact sheet released by the US State Department.

Key highlights from the fact sheet include the establishment of strong defense industrial cooperation, with a focus on co-development and co-production of essential military capabilities for both countries. In a significant move in 2023, the US approved a groundbreaking manufacturing license for the co-production of GE F414 engines in India.

Furthermore, both nations launched an educational series aimed at preparing startups and young innovators to contribute to the defense industries in both countries. Cooperation extends to the bilateral US-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group and the Defence Policy Group, as outlined in the fact sheet.

The United States and India share a common vision for deploying clean energy at scale, evident in both countries’ ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy. Exploring avenues for increased mineral security cooperation, they aim to advance their clean energy goals through initiatives like the Minerals Security Partnership.

Collaboration extends to the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue. India’s signing of the Artemis Accords in June signals a common vision for the future of space exploration for the benefit of humanity, as stated by the US State Department.

Multilateral cooperation is evident in their engagement through various organizations and fora, including the United Nations, G20, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-related fora, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

“The vibrant people-to-people ties between our countries are a tremendous source of strength for the strategic partnership,” states the fact sheet. Highlighting the Indian community of over 4 million in the United States as a vital driver of collaboration, innovation, and job creation in both countries.

In essence, the evolving dynamics between the United States and India signify a paradigm shift towards a more equal and collaborative relationship. The acknowledgment of India’s significance on the global stage, coupled with joint initiatives across various sectors, paints a picture of a robust and mutually beneficial partnership poised for further growth and development.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/theres-difference-in-the-way-us-views-india-today-s-jaishankar-4857711

Taiwan’s 2024 Election: A Crucial Crossroads in Global Politics

In a scenario eerily reminiscent of pivotal presidential elections with far-reaching consequences for the world, Taiwan, a dynamic Asian democracy neighboring a powerful authoritarian state, is set to hold presidential and parliamentary elections this Saturday. The implications of this electoral contest extend well beyond Taiwan’s borders, drawing close scrutiny from China’s Communist leadership, which has persistently asserted its claim over Taiwan despite never having governed it.

The majority of Taiwanese citizens adamantly reject Chinese rule, particularly as President Xi Jinping consolidates power domestically and China adopts a more assertive stance towards its neighbors. China frames the election as a pivotal choice between “war and peace, prosperity and decline,” a sentiment underscored by Xi’s New Year’s Eve warning, asserting the inevitability of reunification with Taiwan.

The United States, Taiwan’s primary international supporter and arms supplier, has had tumultuous relations with China over the Taiwan issue. The upcoming election in Taiwan is poised to test the delicate balance between these global superpowers, with the potential to either ease tensions or escalate towards confrontation and conflict.

The Candidates and Their Platforms

Three contenders vie to succeed President Tsai Ing-wen, who, after eight years in office, cannot seek re-election due to term limits. The frontrunner, Lai Ching-te from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), advocates for Taiwan’s de-facto sovereignty and distinct identity from China. While initially branded as a “practical worker for Taiwan independence,” Lai has moderated his stance, pledging to maintain the status quo and engage in dialogue with Beijing on equal terms.

Hou Yu-ih, a former police officer and mayor of New Taipei City from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), emphasizes peaceful relations with China through open dialogue and increased economic and social ties. Hou criticizes the DPP for provoking China and advocates for a stronger Taiwanese defense.

Ko Wen-je, representing the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), founded in 2019, positions himself as a political outsider. Focusing on everyday issues, Ko proposes a “middle path” in relations with China, criticizing both the DPP for hostility and the KMT for excessive deference.

The potential re-election of the DPP for a third term, unprecedented in Taiwan’s democratic history, would signify the failure of China’s aggressive approach towards Taiwan.

China’s Response and Current Dynamics

Under Xi’s leadership, China has predominantly utilized a coercive approach, diminishing communications with Taiwan, isolating it diplomatically, and escalating military pressure. Cross-strait relations have reached historic lows, with fewer than 3% of Taiwanese identifying as Chinese and less than 10% supporting unification.

China urges Taiwanese voters to make the “correct choice,” implying favoring candidates other than the DPP. Taiwan accuses China of interference, citing disinformation campaigns and economic coercion. Military provocations, including fighter jets, drones, and warships near Taiwan, reflect China’s efforts to influence public morale.

While an outright invasion seems unlikely, China has various means to display displeasure, from military exercises to trade sanctions or a blockade. The international community closely monitors these actions, particularly given existing global tensions.

The U.S.-Taiwan Relationship

Since formally severing ties with Taiwan in 1979, the U.S. has maintained unofficial relations and is obligated by law to support Taiwan’s defense. However, the U.S. has remained ambiguous on whether it would defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack. Under Presidents Biden and Trump, the U.S. increased support and arms sales to Taiwan, raising questions about its longstanding “strategic ambiguity.”

China perceives Taiwan as a red line in its relations with the U.S., warning against interference. Despite U.S. assurances of neutrality in Taiwan’s election, tensions persist. As the U.S. endeavors to stabilize relations with China, Taiwan’s election adds complexity to an already challenging geopolitical landscape.

As the world anxiously watches the unfolding dynamics between Taiwan, China, and the U.S., the outcome of Taiwan’s election and its aftermath will undoubtedly reverberate across the globe. Against the backdrop of escalating conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, the choices made by Taiwanese voters may set the course for international relations in the years to come. Concurrently, the U.S. presidential election later in the year will be closely monitored by Taiwan’s new leadership and its population, further influencing the intricate web of global politics.

Legal Showdown at The Hague: South Africa Accuses Israel of Genocide in Gaza War

In a significant legal battle, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) commenced two days of hearings on Thursday, where South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in connection to its Gaza war. Israel vehemently rejects these allegations.

Lawyers representing South Africa urged the judges to issue binding preliminary orders against Israel, demanding an immediate cessation of its military campaign in Gaza. ICJ President Joan E. Donoghue outlined South Africa’s claims, stating that the country argues Israeli actions post the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas “are genocidal in character” and that Israel “failed to prevent genocide and is committing genocide.” Donoghue added that South Africa contends Israel violates “other fundamental obligations under the (U.N.) Genocide Convention.”

Pro-Israeli protesters, advocating for the release of hostages held by Hamas, gathered near the courthouse with banners reading “Bring them home.” Among the crowd, individuals waved Israeli and Dutch flags. Simultaneously, outside the court, protesters waved the Palestinian flag in support of South Africa’s stance.

The dispute strikes at the core of Israel’s national identity, being a Jewish state formed in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Additionally, it delves into South Africa’s identity, with the African National Congress comparing Israel’s policies to its own history under the apartheid regime.

Despite its usual skepticism toward U.N. and international tribunals, Israel assembled a robust legal team to defend its military operations launched after the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas. Juliette McIntyre, an international law expert, noted, “I think they have come because they want to be exonerated and think they can successfully resist the accusation of genocide.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video statement defending his country’s actions, emphasizing that Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population. He asserted that Israel is targeting Hamas terrorists and operating in compliance with international law, accusing Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

In response to the case filed last year, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry urged the court to take immediate action to protect the Palestinian people and call on Israel to halt its onslaught. The two days of preliminary hearings began with South Africa’s lawyers explaining the accusations against Israel and why they are calling for an immediate halt to military actions.

According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, Israel’s offensive has resulted in the deaths of over 23,200 Palestinians, with about two-thirds being women and children. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. In the Oct. 7 attack, Hamas fighters killed approximately 1,200 people in several Israeli communities and abducted around 250 others.

During a visit to Tel Aviv, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed the case as “meritless,” emphasizing the ongoing threats against Israel from groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Iran.

The ICJ, responsible for resolving disputes between nations, has never ruled a country responsible for genocide. The closest instance was in 2007 when it determined that Serbia “violated the obligation to prevent genocide” in the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.

The case hinges on the 1948 genocide convention, a response to World War II and the Holocaust, with both Israel and South Africa as signatories. South Africa’s detailed 84-page document argues that Israel has demonstrated intent to commit genocide.

South Africa seeks the court’s establishment of Israel’s responsibility for violations of the Genocide Convention, holding it fully accountable under international law, and ensuring protection for Palestinians in Gaza. A team of South African lawyers presented three hours of arguments, and Israel’s legal team will respond on the following day.

Human Rights Watch views these hearings as an opportunity to scrutinize Israel’s actions. Balkees Jarrah, the group’s associate international justice director, stated, “South Africa’s genocide case unlocks a legal process at the world’s highest court to credibly examine Israel’s conduct in Gaza in the hopes of curtailing further suffering.”

Israel will face another ICJ session next month, where hearings will open into a U.N. request for a non-binding advisory opinion on the legality of Israeli policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Understanding the Persistent Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Comprehensive Analysis

If one has delved into the intricate history of the modern Middle East and closely monitored the developments in the region, forming opinions on the enduring conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians becomes almost second nature. However, for those not well-versed in this complex history and only tuning in during times of crisis, a common question arises: Why has the resolution of differences between Israelis and Palestinians been so elusive? Drawing parallels with successful reconciliations in other parts of the world, such as post-World War II relations between America, Germany, and Japan, or the peaceful transformations in South Africa and Northern Ireland, prompts the inquiry into the reasons behind the ongoing strife in the Holy Land.

To shed light on this issue, let’s delve into the top five reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists, causing loss of innocent lives, regional destabilization, and a disproportionate drain on Washington’s political resources, perpetuating fear, suffering, and injustice.

  1. Indivisible Objectives:

At the core of the conflict lies a fundamental structural problem – both Israelis and Palestinian nationalists lay claim to and aspire to control the same piece of territory. This situation, known in international relations as an “indivisibility” problem, makes resolution challenging when both parties vehemently believe in the righteousness of their cause. The contested status of Jerusalem, a sacred site for three major religions, adds complexity to the issue. Despite various proposals for sharing the land over the past century, the voices advocating compromise have been stifled by those demanding the entirety of the disputed territory, illustrating the inherent challenges within nationalist movements.

  1. The Security Dilemma:

The conflict is compounded by a severe security dilemma stemming from the first problem and the small size of the disputed territory. Zionist leaders, recognizing the difficulty of establishing a Jewish-controlled state with a significant Arab minority, resorted to acts of ethnic cleansing during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and again in 1967. The expansionist impulse, driven by Israel’s vulnerable geography and small population, led to the retention of the West Bank and Golan Heights post-1967, creating a demographic problem. The pursuit of a “Greater Israel” clashes with democratic principles, leaving the least undesirable option – giving up a substantial portion of controlled territory for a two-state solution.

  1. Unhelpful Outsiders:

The involvement of third parties with self-interested interventions has fueled and prolonged the conflict. From Britain’s mismanagement in the interwar period to the United States and the Soviet Union arming respective sides during the Cold War, external influences have often been counterproductive. Interventions by Iran, backing groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, further complicated the situation, deflecting attention from resolving the core Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  1. Extremists:

Extremists on both sides have consistently undermined well-intentioned efforts for peace. The Oslo peace process in the 1990s faced challenges from suicide bombings by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The opposition to a two-state solution, notably exemplified by Benjamin Netanyahu, has impeded progress. Netanyahu’s covert support for Hamas aimed to weaken the moderate Palestinian Authority interested in a two-state solution, culminating in tragic events on Oct. 7.

  1. The Israel Lobby:

Groups like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and Christians United for Israel, while not solely responsible, have impeded progress. By shaping a one-sided view of the conflict within the American body politic, these groups obstructed serious attempts by U.S. presidents to bring about a resolution. Despite public commitments by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama to a two-state solution, the lack of meaningful pressure on Israel hindered progress, leading to successive Israeli governments avoiding compromise.

Each of these five factors, alone a formidable obstacle, collectively contributes to the prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The tragedy extends to both Israelis and Palestinians, with the latter bearing the greatest losses. Furthermore, the present actions of Israel in the Gaza war raise concerns about global repercussions, potentially fueling antisemitism and implicating the United States in a moral and strategic quagmire. As the conflict persists, the prospects for a timely resolution seem increasingly remote, posing a challenge to the region’s stability and global peace.

BRICS Initiative Faces Setback as India Struggles to Promote Rupee in International Trade

In a noteworthy move, BRICS member India successfully persuaded 22 countries to adopt the Rupee for international trade, shifting away from the dominance of the US dollar. The nations involved, primarily from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the global south, willingly signed an agreement to conduct a portion of their trade using the Rupee, bypassing the US dollar. In an effort to facilitate smoother transactions, India also established special Vostro bank accounts for these countries to settle payments in their local currency.

However, India’s ambitious plan has encountered unexpected challenges, with a majority of the 22 nations now expressing reluctance to maintain the Rupee as part of their currency reserves. The primary reason behind this hesitation is the depreciation of the Rupee against the US dollar, rendering it less appealing for countries to hoard in reserves. Consequently, the global demand for the Rupee has weakened, undermining India’s efforts to sideline the US dollar.

The default currencies for international transactions have reverted to the more established options of the US dollar, Euro, Pound, Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen, or UAE’s Dirhams. The Rupee, unfortunately, has not found a place at this table, making the original goal of moving away from the US dollar seem increasingly impractical.

India faced an unexpected setback from within the BRICS alliance itself, as Russia, one of its counterparts, put a pause on oil trade due to non-receipt of payments in the Chinese Yuan. Russia firmly stated its preference for accepting payments in part through the US dollar and the Chinese Yuan, explicitly excluding the Rupee for settlement. This stance has resulted in a significant delay in a substantial shipment of Russian Sokol crude oil to the Indian Oil Corp (IOC) due to currency-related payment issues.

The Indian government, despite this setback, has shown little interest in utilizing the Chinese Yuan for payments and has instead advised the IOC to opt for Dirhams. However, Russia, as a fellow BRICS member, remains steadfast in its position, urging India to make partial payments in either the US dollar or the Chinese Yuan.

This development has had a tangible impact on crude oil shipments, with transactions coming to a standstill. An unnamed source conveyed to the Economic Times, “The supplier has an intent to deliver crude oil. Hopefully, a solution will be found soon.”

It is crucial to maintain the essence and key information while presenting it in a rephrased manner. By adhering to this principle, the essence of the article has been preserved, highlighting India’s struggle to promote the Rupee in international trade and the unforeseen challenges faced in the BRICS alliance, particularly with Russia’s reluctance to accept the Rupee for settlement in the oil trade.

Maldives Faces Tourism Boycott Amidst Controversial Remarks on Indian PM Modi

Maldives is grappling with a potential tourism crisis as one of its primary sources of income, Indian tourists, contemplates a boycott following derogatory comments made by three Maldives officials about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The controversy unfolded after Modi shared images on social media showcasing his time snorkeling and walking along the beaches of Lakshadweep, a southern Indian island chain. Although Modi did not explicitly mention the Maldives in his post, the effusive praise for Lakshadweep’s scenic beauty raised eyebrows, potentially diverting attention away from the popular Maldivian destination.

In response to Modi’s post, three Maldives officials, identified as deputy ministers with the Ministry of Youth Employment, Information, and Arts, described him as a “clown,” “terrorist,” and a “puppet of Israel,” according to Reuters. The Maldives government swiftly distanced itself from these comments, suspending the officials and emphasizing that their opinions were personal and did not reflect the government’s stance on the matter.

The incident comes at a delicate time, coinciding with Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s five-day visit to China, his first as president since winning the election in October. President Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, aims to strengthen ties with Beijing and sign key agreements for trade, professional, and socioeconomic development during his visit. However, maintaining positive relations with India, Maldives’ closest neighbor and a crucial contributor to its tourism sector, remains essential.

Maldives heavily depends on tourism, with India being the largest source of tourists in recent years. In 2023, Indian tourists accounted for 11% of the country’s tourism market, making more than 209,000 trips to the Maldives. The officials’ disparaging remarks have triggered a backlash from Indian tourists, who have taken to social media to announce cancellations under the hashtag #BoycottMaldives. Prominent figures, including Bollywood actors and cricket players, have also encouraged travelers to explore local destinations, with the hashtag #ChaloLakshadweep gaining traction.

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, known for his patriotic roles, condemned the Maldivian officials’ remarks as “hateful and racist” and urged people to support domestic tourism. He said, “We are good to our neighbors, but why should we tolerate such unprovoked hate? Let us decide to #ExploreIndianIslands and support our own tourism.”

In a significant move, Indian travel site EaseMyTrip announced the suspension of flight bookings to the Maldives, expressing solidarity with the nation. Nishant Pitti, CEO and co-founder of EaseMyTrip, stated, “In solidarity with our nation, @EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings.” The Confederation of All India Traders, a prominent trade body, also called on its members to suspend business with the Maldives until an apology is issued or remedial measures are taken.

Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer denounced the officials’ remarks as “unacceptable” and emphasized the archipelago’s commitment to fostering positive and constructive dialogues with its partners. The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has reportedly raised concerns with the Maldivian Foreign Office over the issue.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, noted that the swift action taken by the Maldives government to suspend the officials and disavow their comments underscores the importance it places on maintaining strong relations with India. Kugelman suggested that while challenges may arise, the new leadership in the Maldives aims to balance its relationships with both India and China, emphasizing the significance of preserving ties with its immediate neighbor.

Contrasting State Agendas: Republicans Embrace Social Regulation, Democrats Prioritize Public Good

In exploring the stark disparities between the policy agendas of America’s two major parties, it becomes evident that the states serve as microcosms reflecting the potential future under each party’s federal governance. The divergence is particularly pronounced where Republicans wield full control, as they leverage authority to enact policies restricting individual freedoms.

The “anti-woke” governance in Florida, under Governor Ron DeSantis, exemplifies this trend, from stigmatizing L.G.B.T.Q. individuals in public schools to an assault on higher education, prompting professors to flee the state. Described as an “intellectual reign of terror” by LeRoy Pernell, a law professor at Florida A&M University, these measures echo across Republican-led states, where bills targeting trans and gender nonconforming people abound. Oklahoma and Tennessee prohibit nonbinary gender identifiers on birth certificates, while Arkansas, Alabama, and Texas restrict gender-affirming care for young trans individuals, with Texas going as far as labeling such care as potential child abuse.

The issue of abortion also surfaces prominently, with Republican-led states imposing stringent policies after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas have implemented new abortion restrictions, leaving millions of women without access to services, even in cases of life-threatening complications. Texas notably waged a legal battle against Kate Cox, denying her the right to terminate her nonviable pregnancy, compelling her to seek care outside the state.

Furthermore, Republicans in these states pursue efforts to restrict voting and engage in gerrymandering, collectively constituting a comprehensive endeavor to curtail the freedom of entire groups of people.

Contrastingly, Democratic trifectas, as seen in Michigan, reflect a commitment to policies aimed at expanding access and enhancing the well-being of residents. Michigan Democrats recently overhauled election laws to increase access to the polls, including automatic voter registration for released prisoners. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed laws addressing various issues, such as increasing the state earned-income tax credit, expanding anti-discrimination protections, repealing the state’s right-to-work law, and abolishing a 1931 statute criminalizing abortion care.

Similar endeavors can be observed in Minnesota and Maryland following Democratic victories. Minnesota Democrats, facing Republican opposition, enacted measures for paid family and medical leave, workplace protections, curbing wage theft, and providing free meals to public school children. In Maryland, Democrats expedited the transition to a $15-per-hour minimum wage, expanded tax credits for low-income residents, imposed restrictions on carrying firearms in public places, and protected abortion rights.

Long-term consequences of state policies on life expectancy underscore the importance of these political distinctions. A 2020 paper highlighted the impact of state policies on life expectancy, with Connecticut’s liberal policies associated with longer life spans and Oklahoma’s conservative policies linked to shorter life spans.

In examining these state agendas, it becomes clear that the differences between Republicans and Democrats extend beyond reasonable policy disagreements. Democrats prioritize the public good, as reflected in their multifaceted legislative initiatives, while Republicans tend toward harsh social regulation, seemingly indifferent to the well-being of those affected by such policies.

US President Biden’s Absence Alters Plans for India’s Republic Day and Quad Summit; Investigation into Alleged Assassination Plot Adds Complexity

US President Joe Biden will not attend India’s Republic Day parade in January 2024, and the Quad summit, initially scheduled around the same time, is being postponed to the latter part of 2024, according to sources on Tuesday.

“We are looking for revised dates (for Quad) as the dates currently under consideration do not work with all the Quad partners,” the source said.

India had invited President Biden for the Republic Day celebrations, intending to host the Quad leaders’ summit in January next year. The Indian Express reported on September 7 New Delhi’s plans to invite the US President for Republic Day along with other Quad leaders and hold the Quad summit in January.

US Ambassador Eric Garcetti confirmed on September 20 that President Joe Biden had been invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Republic Day celebrations. The invitation was extended during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi.

A final decision would be made after confirming the availability of leaders—President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Albanese’s commitment to Australian national day on January 26 and the Japanese parliament, the Diet, being in session posed scheduling challenges.

Biden’s schedule awaited by the other three sides, the Quad summit could have taken place on January 27, a day after Republic Day celebrations on January 26. An invitation to be the Republic Day Chief Guest is highly symbolic and is usually extended only after informal confirmation of leaders’ availability.

Biden’s unavailability coincides with the US investigating an alleged assassination plot of a Khalistan separatist on US soil. Given an Indian official’s alleged involvement, the Indian government is also investigating information shared by US agencies. Federal prosecutors filed an indictment in November detailing the alleged plot against the separatist with dual US-Canadian nationality.

This marks the second time a US President couldn’t attend Republic Day celebrations. Former President Donald Trump, invited in 2018 for January 2019 celebrations, also couldn’t make it. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was invited as a replacement. The only instance of a US President attending Republic Day was in January 2015 when President Barack Obama visited during the first year of the Modi government.

While officials emphasize that Biden’s unavailability should not cast a shadow on bilateral ties amid the Pannun assassination plot, they stress the deep stakes and vital interests the two sides share. The Quad grouping is expected to convene towards the end of the year, after elections and before the US election cycle takes over.

Despite ongoing US-China engagement, with Biden meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in California, officials affirm the commitment to the Quad grouping. A summit, even at a later date, will send a strong signal to China, whose aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region has brought the four countries together.

Shifting Tides in European Unity: A Geopolitical Crossroad

In contemporary times, fractures within the Western world are becoming increasingly pronounced. The Prime Ministers of Belgium and Spain have voiced their support for Palestine, advocating its recognition as an independent state. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Slovakia has withdrawn support for the Ukrainian war effort, echoing sentiments from the winner of the Dutch elections, Geert Wilders, and Hungary. This growing trend towards peace in a wearied Europe suggests the possibility of substantial shifts on the horizon.

Over two decades ago, American neoconservative Robert Kagan observed in his book “Of Paradise and Power” that Europe, existing in a Kantian zone of peace, could afford to be oblivious to the realities of power, thanks to the United States’ wielding of influence. However, recent developments indicate that Europe can no longer remain a paradise detached from power dynamics. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, envisions transforming the EU into a geopolitical actor. This shift is evident in Brussels’ more mercantilist stance, demonstrated by the proposed ‘anti-coercion instrument.’

This instrument seeks to impose tariffs and export controls on countries that interfere with the trade or investment decisions of EU member states. Yet, internal resistance within the European Council, composed of member state leaders, hampers its implementation. Similar hurdles emerge in the Global Gateway project, touted as the EU’s response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Concerns within the European Commission about provoking China, coupled with budgetary constraints and a lack of political will, cast doubt on the project’s efficacy.

The once-united front of Berlin and Paris, considered the engine of Europe, is now showing signs of strain. Disagreements on issues ranging from nuclear energy to joint defense projects and the European missile shield are exacerbating tensions. Chancellor Scholz’s push for relaxing EU rules on state aid raises concerns in Paris about granting Germany undue advantages. However, it is the issue of China that poses a substantial threat to the Franco-German partnership.

While Scholz’s government announces a China strategy promising de-risking, its actions, including support for growing German investment in China and reluctance to exclude Chinese technology from its telecommunications infrastructure, contradict the rhetoric. Germany’s unique susceptibility to industrial lobby influence over foreign policy, noted by analyst Wolfgang Münchau, further complicates the situation. In contrast, Macron’s approach involves assuring Beijing of friendship while pressuring the European Commission to investigate Chinese subsidies for electric vehicles.

This divergent approach to China intensifies the clash between German export-driven growth, aligned with China, and French aspirations for reindustrialization. The potential impact of a trade war on major German corporations, deeply entwined with China, adds a layer of complexity to this geopolitical puzzle. As France seeks economic autonomy for Europe, and Germany aims to maintain trade surpluses, a collision appears increasingly inevitable.

While some European nations view Washington’s confrontational stance towards China skeptically, the ambiguous positions of European capitals may tempt the United States towards unilateralism. Such a move risks triggering a similar short-sighted egoism in other European states, mirroring Germany’s approach. Moreover, the impending break-up of the Franco-German alliance opens the door to new political possibilities. For the U.S., this means shaping more effective coalitions, while for Europe, it signifies a potential departure from post-historical illusions and an entry into the realm of power politics.

Global Climate Negotiations at Crossroads: Phasing Out or Down Fossil Fuels Sparks Intensity at Cop28 Summit

Negotiations on how the world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the impacts of the climate crisis are set to intensify over the next few days at the Cop28 UN climate summit in Dubai. Nations are grappling with the crucial decision of whether to phase out or phase down fossil fuels, a central point of contention in the talks.

The remaining five negotiating days will see ministers engaging in a series of meetings to break the impasse and formulate a text outlining a roadmap to limit global heating to a rise of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. Simon Stiell, the UN climate chief, emphasized the urgency of the situation, urging countries to prioritize ambitious actions. He stated, “Now all governments must give their negotiators clear marching orders – we need the highest ambition, not point-scoring or lowest common denominator politics. Good intentions won’t halve emissions this decade or save lives right now.”

As the negotiations approach their conclusion, the host country, the United Arab Emirates, plays a crucial role in determining the next steps. Cop28 president Sultan Al Jaber, also the chief executive of the UAE national oil company Adnoc, is tasked with appointing pairs of ministers representing both developed and developing countries. Their mandate is to facilitate dialogue and find compromises.

Despite Al Jaber’s role in the oil industry, he expressed a desire for an ambitious outcome from the talks. He told negotiators, “What we have collectively accomplished only in a week is nothing short of historic. In just seven days, we have demonstrated that multilateralism does actually work. It is alive and well.”

The Cop28 president is set to convene a plenary session, promising to use “all the tools available” to forge an agreement. Al Jaber stated, “The presidency will assess the status of the different items [under negotiation] and lay out a tailored approach to conclude all outstanding elements.”

The transparency of the negotiation process is expected to improve this year, with the UAE hosting a larger team and having greater resources to manage the task of involving more than 190 countries in the discussions.

A critical aspect of the negotiations revolves around the global stocktake, a requirement of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. This comprehensive assessment evaluates progress toward the Paris goals of limiting global temperature increases to “well below 2°C” while making efforts to restrict temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The most contentious lines within this text concern the potential phase out or phase down of fossil fuels. Over 100 countries support a phase-out, but they face opposition from countries such as Saudi Arabia, China, and India. The inclusion of language on fossil fuels in the final text remains uncertain.

Negotiators have highlighted the transition from technical discussions, overseen by civil servants, to political negotiations involving ministers. The lack of clarity on a compromise adds to the challenges as the talks approach the Tuesday evening deadline.

Despite early optimism, the talks faced obstacles, particularly regarding loss and damage – funds required for the rescue and rehabilitation of countries affected by climate disasters. This issue, one of the longest-running in climate negotiations, saw unprecedented resolution on the first official day of the summit, with more than $800 million pledged. While a promising start, the amount falls far short of the expected needs reaching into the hundreds of billions.

With loss and damage addressed, countries shifted their focus to other segments of the talks, including the global stocktake and the “mitigation work programme.” Developing countries are advocating for a significant increase in climate finance to help them adapt to extreme weather impacts. The key issues for these nations center around equity, justice, human rights, and finance.

Madeleine Diouf Sarr, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, emphasized the importance of the global stocktake, stating, “This is a big fight, the global stocktake. We are already at 1.2°C, so we need to really close the gap to get to net zero emissions. Developed countries must take the lead [on cutting emissions]. It’s not easy, it requires a lot of negotiation, but the guiding principle must be of common but differentiated responsibilities – historical responsibility [for emissions].”

US Ambassador Garcetti Foresees Bright Future for India-US Relations: A Multiplicative Force for Global Good

The US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, expressed optimism about the India-US relationship, stating that it is a “force of good for the world” with a “positive romantic ambiguity” for the future. Speaking at Carnegie’s Global Tech Summit 2023, Garcetti highlighted the growing breadth and depth of ties between the two nations, emphasizing efforts to negotiate differences and plan for the future.

In his address, Garcetti humorously likened the historical status of the relationship to a Facebook status of “It’s complicated,” suggesting that it has evolved into a phase resembling dating. He remarked on the complexities of merging habits, symbolizing the ongoing efforts to understand and navigate the partnership’s direction. Despite the uncertainties, he underscored a shared desire on both sides to advance the relationship.

Quoting Garcetti, “There’s a positive romantic ambiguity about where this will ultimately lead… But there’s a strong desire on both [sides to take the relationship forward].”

Reflecting on the partnership’s effectiveness, Garcetti pointed to the G20 Summit as a notable example. He commended the collaboration between India and the US, emphasizing how their joint efforts surpassed a simple additive relationship, producing a historic consensus involving 20 countries.

Quoting Garcetti, “India-US relationship is not additive, its multiplicative. We demonstrated that at G20, where it was more than just 1+1 equals 2 countries, 1+1 actually produced 20 countries together with a historic and strongest, deepest statement ever put forward by a G20.”

The ambassador highlighted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States as a significant milestone in the relationship’s growth. He noted the extensive discussions and numerous deliverables, emphasizing the unprecedented nature of the continued communication between the two nations.

Quoting Garcetti, “if you get three to five deliverables, that’s a strong state dinner. The week before [the state dinner], we were ploughing through 123 different deliverables.”

Garcetti concurred with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s perspective that the state dinner should be viewed not as the pinnacle but as a new base for US-India relations. He emphasized President Joe Biden’s recognition of the relationship as the most consequential in the world.

Quoting Garcetti, “[President Joe Biden] is the very first president to say this is most consequential relationship in the world.”

Addressing the role of China in the bilateral ties, Garcetti acknowledged its importance but refuted the notion that the relationship was primarily centered around China. He asserted that 95% of the relationship was fundamentally about other matters, characterizing China as a component related to deterrence.

Quoting Garcetti, “Peace is critical, but deterring war, respecting borders and sovereignty, making sure that we don’t have people who steal intellectual property, that we are not overly dependent on any one place for a supply chain, is a deterrent peace.”

Responding to concerns about India’s ability to absorb the impact of US-China derisking, Garcetti emphasized that missing this opportunity would be a loss. He also addressed challenges hindering the desired flow of Foreign Direct Investment, pointing to India’s status as the “highest taxed input major economy in the world.”

Quoting Garcetti, “It’s not a criticism…but it’s harming your own internal capacity to be the manufacturing powerhouse that India should be. That we want it to be. That it is starting to accelerate to become but it will require some fundamentally deeper changes.”

G20 Chief Coordinator Harsh Vardhan Shringla, participating in the discussions, echoed the sentiment that the relationship is multifaceted and constantly evolving. He emphasized the collaborative role of the US and India as a force for good in the world beyond their individual interests.

Quoting Shringla, “The relationship is amazingly multifaceted, but it’s also constantly evolving. US and India are a force for good in the world together, not just for our countries.”

Delhi Police Ramp Up Security Amidst Threats to Parliament’s Foundation on Anniversary of 2001 Attack

The Delhi Police have heightened their vigilance in response to a video message from Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, a Khalistani supporter based in the United States. In the video, Pannu issued a threat to “shake the very foundation of Parliament” on December 13, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. The authorities are taking the threat seriously, with a senior police officer confirming the implementation of enhanced security measures in and around Parliament.

The senior officer emphasized the commitment to maintaining law and order, stating, “No one will be allowed to disturb law and order. When Parliament is in session, we remain alert.” These assurances were accompanied by a clear message that all necessary precautionary measures are being taken to prevent any untoward incidents. Security has been bolstered not only in the vicinity of Parliament but throughout the entire city of Delhi.

The video message, delivered by Pannu, who is the chief of the banned organization Sikhs for Justice, also featured a photograph of Afzal Guru, the convict in the 2001 Parliament attack. In the video, Pannu made serious allegations against the Narendra Modi government, claiming an attempt on his life and vowing to respond on December 13. His ominous promise asserted that his retaliation would “shake the very foundation of the Indian Parliament.”

The threat issued by Pannu has raised concerns and prompted a proactive response from law enforcement agencies. The reference to the 2001 Parliament attack, a dark chapter in India’s history, adds gravity to the situation. Authorities are not taking any chances, and the increased security measures are indicative of the seriousness with which they are approaching this potential threat.

While the specific nature of Pannu’s allegations against the Modi government remains unclear, the mere mention of an attempt on his life suggests a heightened level of tension and animosity. Such claims, when made by individuals with affiliations to proscribed organizations, demand thorough investigation and a robust security response.

The timing of the threat, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2001 Parliament attack, adds a layer of historical significance to the situation. December 13 is a solemn day in the memory of the brave individuals who lost their lives in the 2001 attack. The threat to disrupt Parliament on this particular day is not only a security concern but also a potential attempt to exploit the emotional resonance associated with the anniversary.

As the authorities work to ensure the safety and security of Parliament and the people of Delhi, the larger question looms regarding the motivations and objectives behind such threats. Pannu’s affiliation with Sikhs for Justice, an organization that has been banned in India, raises questions about the broader implications of the threat and its potential impact on the socio-political landscape.

The heightened security measures in response to Gurpatwant Singh Pannu’s video threat reflect the seriousness with which law enforcement is treating the situation. The anniversary of the 2001 Parliament attack adds historical significance to the threat, emphasizing the need for a robust and comprehensive security response. As the authorities remain vigilant, the coming days will be crucial in determining the credibility of the threat and ensuring the safety of Parliament and the citizens of Delhi.

CIA Labels Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal as ‘Religious Militant Organizations’ in Latest World Factbook, Sparks Strong Rejection and Legal Threats from Indian Officials

The latest edition of the ‘World Factbook’ by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has labeled the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations.” In the report, the CIA, the intelligence arm of the US government, classifies them as “political pressure groups,” denoting organizations involved in politics or exerting political influence without leaders standing for legislative election.

The RSS, Hurriyat Conference, and Jamiat Ulema-e Hind are also included in India’s list of political pressure groups by the CIA. The RSS is described as a “nationalist organization,” the Hurriyat Conference as a “separatist group,” and the Jamiat Ulema-e Hind as a “religious organization.”

The CIA’s ‘World Factbook’ is an annual publication providing intelligence and factual reference material on countries or issues to the US government. Covering aspects such as history, people, government, economy, energy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues, this resource has been available since 1962, with public access granted in 1975. It serves as essential information for US policymakers and is coordinated across the US intelligence community, alongside ‘The President’s Daily Brief’ and ‘National Intelligence Estimates.’

Reacting to the CIA’s characterization, Khemchand Sharma, former national convenor of the BJP’s Samvad cell, dismissed the assertions as “fake news.” He vehemently rejected the classification of VHP and Bajrang Dal as religious militant organizations, stating that they are recognized nationalist groups. Sharma announced the initiation of legal proceedings against the CIA’s reference.

In its ‘World Factbook,’ the CIA designates the VHP and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations,” classifying them as “political pressure groups” engaged in political activities without contesting legislative elections.

The RSS, Hurriyat Conference, and Jamiat Ulema-e Hind are also listed as political pressure groups in India. The CIA describes the RSS as a “nationalist organization,” the Hurriyat Conference as a “separatist group,” and the Jamiat Ulema-e Hind as a “religious organization.”

The ‘World Factbook’ is an annual publication by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that offers intelligence and factual reference material on various aspects of countries or issues to the US government. Covering a wide range of topics, including history, government, economy, energy, and military, it serves as a crucial resource for US policymakers. The CIA has been publishing this material since 1962, with public access granted in 1975.

Khemchand Sharma, former national convenor of the BJP’s Samvad cell, strongly rejected the CIA’s classification of VHP and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations,” labeling it as “fake news.” Sharma emphasized that these groups are recognized as nationalist organizations and announced plans to initiate legal proceedings against the CIA’s reference.

“We completely reject CIA reference to VHP and Bajrang dal as religious militant organizations.. these r the nationalist organizations, all knows it. Legal proceeding will be initiated against this reference soon,” Sharma tweeted.

The CIA’s ‘World Factbook’ designates the VHP and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations,” categorizing them as “political pressure groups” involved in political activities without participating in legislative elections.

In addition to these groups, the RSS, Hurriyat Conference, and Jamiat Ulema-e Hind are listed as political pressure groups in India. The RSS is identified as a “nationalist organization,” the Hurriyat Conference as a “separatist group,” and the Jamiat Ulema-e Hind as a “religious organization.”

The ‘World Factbook’ is an annual publication by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that provides intelligence and factual reference material on various aspects of countries or issues to the US government. Covering topics such as history, government, economy, and military, it is a vital resource for US policymakers. The CIA has been publishing this material since 1962, making it publicly accessible in 1975.

Reacting to the CIA’s classification, Khemchand Sharma, former national convenor of the BJP’s Samvad cell, dismissed the assertions as “fake news.” He strongly rejected the characterization of VHP and Bajrang Dal as “religious militant organizations,” asserting that these groups are recognized as nationalist organizations. Sharma announced plans to initiate legal proceedings against the CIA’s reference.

UN Special Session on COVID-19 To Begin This Week

The UN General Assembly is holding a Special Session on the Covid-19 pandemic at the level of Heads of State and Government on 3 and 4 December.. It took more than a year of discussions to overcome the opposition of certain states, notably the United States and President Donald Trump.

BRUSSELS, Nov 30 2020 (IPS) – The holding of this Special Session (the 37th in the history of the UN) is of considerable importance. It is a unique opportunity to define and implement joint actions at the global level to fight the pandemic in order to ensure the right to life and health for all the inhabitants of the Earth. As the President of the UN General Assembly wrote in his letter of convocation: “Let us not forget that none of us are safe until we are all safe”.

This is a historic moment. The future of the UN is at stake, and above all the capacity of our societies to give life a universal value free from any subordination to market, economic and power “reasons”.

Health, life, is not a question of business, profits, national power, domination or survival of the strongest. The right to health for all is not only a question of access to care (medicines, vaccines….).

This special session is also very important because it represents a great opportunity for us citizens. It encourages us to express our priorities and wishes, to put pressure on our elected leaders so that their decisions comply with the constitutional principles of our States and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Peoples.

As the Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth, we have already intervened in September with the UN Secretary General in defense of a health policy without private patents for profit and free of charge (under collective financial responsibility.

On 23 October, at the WTO (World Trade Organisation) level, the “rich” countries of the “North” (United States, European Union, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan…) rejected the request made by South Africa and India, supported by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and other countries of the South, to temporarily suspend the application of patent rules in the fight against Covid-19.

The suspension was intended to allow people in impoverished countries fair and effective access to coronavirus treatment. We deeply deplore it. With this rejection, the aforementioned countries have flouted the political and legal primacy of the right to health according to the rules and objectives set at the international level by WHO over the “logics” and market interests promoted by WTO. This is unacceptable.

Is humanity at the beginning of the end of any global common health policy inspired by justice, responsibility and solidarity?

Inequalities in the right to health have worsened as part of a general increase in impoverishment. According to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report of the World Bank the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021.1

The vaccine market is valued at about $29.64 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $43.79 billion at a CAGR of 10.3% through 2020. The sector is marked by a high degree of concentration: four major pharmaceutical groups dominated in 2019 in terms of turnover generated by the marketing of vaccines.

Leading the way is the British company GlaxoSmithKline, followed by the American Merck and Pfizer, with 7.3 and 5.9 billion euros respectively, and then the French company Sanofi with over 5.8 billion euros last year.

The concentration of vaccine production is also impressive. Europe currently accounts for three-quarters of global vaccine production. The rest of the production is divided mainly between North America (13%) and Asia (8%). In Europe, there are pharmaceutical giants such as Roche, Novartis and Bayer.

The resulting social fractures from above-mentioned trends make it more difficult to implement measures and actions in line with common, shared objectives, in the interest of all, especially the weakest who are at risk.

The spirit of survival and nationalist, racist and class divisions have been reinforced. With a few exceptions, the commodification and privatisation of health systems have contributed to the transfer of decision-making powers to private global industrial, commercial and financial subjects.

National political powers, which are responsible for the processes of commodification and privatisation, are less and less able to design and impose a global and public health policy in the interest of the world’s population.

Mainstream narratives, values, choices and regulation practices must change

The world situation is dramatic. This does not mean that it’s impossible to reverse to-day’s trends. Here below we mention the solutions that Agora of the Inhabitants has submitted to the attention of the president of the UN General Assembly in view of the Special Session on Covid-19.

Our proposals were the subject of a consultation with associations, groups, movements and citizen networks during the month of November. We have received 1,285 signed personal emails of support from 53 countries.

First, the Special Session must strongly reaffirm the principle that the health of all the inhabitants of the Earth is the greatest wealth we possess. Health matters, health is a universal right. It should not belong only to those who have the power to purchase the goods and services necessary and indispensable for life. Our States must stop spending almost 2 trillion dollars a year on armaments and wars.

The health of 8 billion human beings and other living species is more important than the power of conquest and extermination. To this end, it is necessary to change the priorities of global finance by investing in the economy of global public goods (health, water, knowledge/education.

The Special Session should: – propose the creation of a public cooperative financial fund for health, as an integral part of a Global Deposits and Consignments Fund for Global Public Goods; – commission UNIDIR or a commission of independent experts to submit a study report on immediate reductions in military expenditure and the reconversion of its allocation to the development, production and distribution of public goods and services in the health and related fields of water, agro-food and knowledge.

Second, universal rights to life imply that the goods and services indispensable for life should no longer be subject to private appropriation nor to exclusive collective appropriation. Therefore it is necessary to build the common future of all the inhabitants of the Earth by promoting and safeguarding the common public goods and services indispensable for life.

Water, health, seeds, housing and knowledge and education, are the most obvious common public goods. They cannot be dissociated from universal rights. Patents on life (and artificial intelligence) are a strong example of the dissociation between goods that are indispensable for life, such as medical care goods (infrastructure, medicines, and so on) and the right to life.

Hence, we propose:

  • to recognise that health (goods and services) is a global common public good that must be safeguarded, protected and valued by the community, under the responsibility of democratically elected public authority institutions, at the different levels of societal organisation of human communities, from the local to the global community of life on Earth;
    • approve the abandonment for the period 2021-2023 of application of the rules concerning patents on living organisms, in particular on all the tools for combating the Covid-19 pandemic (diagnostics, treatment, vaccines). The monopolies left to patent holders have no relevant social, ethical, economic and political value. To this end, the Member States of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, representatives of all the peoples and citizens of the Earth, commit themselves, for want of anything better, to use as of now existing instruments of international law such as compulsory licensing;
    • decide to set up a global Task Force, under the aegis of the UN, to revise the legal-institutional regime of intellectual property in the Anthropocene, the aim of which would be to abandon the principle of the patentability of living organisms for private and profit-making purposes and to define a new global regime on intellectual property in the light also of the experience accumulated in recent years in the field of artificial intelligence.

Third, it is of fundamental importance to abandon submission to the dictates of “In the name of money”. “You are not profitable? You are not indispensable. In any case, your life is not a priority”. It is not because a person is not profitable for the capital invested that he or she is no longer indispensable. Being without purchasing power does not mean becoming without rights. Life is not money. Living beings are not commodities, resources for profit.

To this end, the Special Session should:

  • highlight the need for the re-publicization of scientific research (basic and applied) and technological development. The pooling of knowledge and health protocols, medicines and vaccines must be part of the immediate measures to be taken. In this perspective;
    • propose the approval of a Global Compact on Science for Life and Security for all the inhabitants of the Earth;
    • to convey in 2022 a UN world conference on the global common public goods and services. The current mystifying use of the concept of ‘global public goods’ in relation to Covid-19 vaccines underlines the urgency and importance of the proposal.

Fourth, a global health policy requires a global political architecture capable, above all, of outlawing predatory finance. The “global security” of the global public goods in the interests of life for all the inhabitants of the Earth can be achieved by creating global institutions with corresponding competences and powers.

The Earth inhabitants do not need new winners, new global conquerors. They need world leaders and citizens who are convinced that the future of life on Earth requires a new and urgent Global Social Pact for Life. In 25 years’ time, the UN will celebrate the centenary of its founding.

The Special Session must make it clear that there can no longer be a debate on small adjustments to the global regulatory model known as “multilateralism”.

The Special Session should:

  • recognise Humanity as an institutional subject and key actor in the global politics of life. The opening of a Global Common House of Knowledge, based on the existing pooling of knowledge, experiences, technical tools (case of Costa Rica concerning health…) will be a significant concrete step forward;
    • propose the urgent creation of a Global Public Goods and Services Security Council, starting with health, water and knowledge.

It is time for governments and citizens to get or regain common control of health policy. The Special Session must set the record straight. The right to health for all is not only a question of (economic) access to care (medicines, vaccines…) but, more, a question of building the human, social, economic (such as employment…), environmental and political conditions that shape an individual and collective healthy state.

(By Riccardo Petrella from IPS, an Italian national living in Belgium is Emeritus Professor, Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), with Honorary Degrees (Honoris Causa) from eight universities in Sweden, Denmark, France, Canada, Argentina and Belgium. His research and teaching fields have been regional development, poverty, science and technology policy and globalization.)

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