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.

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.

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.

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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