Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The 14th Dalai Lama started his visit to "Arunachal Pradesh" (South Tibet of China) on Tuesday. The Dalai Lama has been to the disputed region before, but what makes this trip different is that he is received and accompanied by India's Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju. When China raised the concern over the visit, Rijiju commented that China shouldn't intervene in their "internal affairs."
When the Dalai Lama clique fled from Tibet, he sought shelter at Dharamsala of India, thus the Dalai question became one of the problems that upset Sino-Indian relationship. New Delhi takes a stance that opposes the Dalai Lama engaging in anti-China activities on the soil of India; however, it has long attempted to use the Dalai Lama as a card.
When India emphasizes the relationship with China, it would place a tight control on the Dalai. When it has a grudge against China, it may prompt the Dalai to play certain tricks as a signal sent to China.
Recently, India has been strongly dissatisfied with China for not supporting its membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Its request to name Masood Azhar, head of Pakistani militant group, to a UN Security Council blacklist was disapproved by China, resulting in some Indians calling for a boycott of Chinese goods. The Dalai's visit to Arunachal Pradesh this time is seen as New Delhi using the monk as a diplomatic tool to put pressure on China.
But this is a clumsy and rude move. The Dalai is a highly politicized symbol in China's diplomacy. For any country, its attitude toward the Dalai Lama almost affects the entire relationship with China. The West has fully recognized the nature of the Dalai as a diplomatic card and is extremely prudent in using it. When the Dalai travels to the capital of a Western country, who will meet him, when and where would be carefully weighed.
Before this trip, the Dalai Lama was received by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in December. At a time when the Dalai has been given a cold shoulder in many places of the world, New Delhi is bucking the trend and treating him as a favorite.
It is worth mentioning that India is dissatisfied with China mainly in the international multilateral field, while the Dalai Lama question is purely a China's domestic issue. China also suffered setbacks when applying for the membership of international organizations. Its proposal to blacklist some terrorist group had also been refused. However, as dissatisfied as China was, it didn't make an issue of them.
New Delhi probably overestimates its leverage in the bilateral ties with China. The two countries in recent years have continuously strived to improve their relationship and the peace on the border area has been maintained. India has benefited from the good momentum of bilateral relationship as much as China. If New Delhi ruins the Sino-India ties and the two countries turn into open rivals, can India afford the consequence?
With a GDP several times higher than that of India, military capabilities that can reach the Indian Ocean and having good relations with India's peripheral nations, coupled with the fact that India's turbulent northern state borders China, if China engages in a geopolitical game with India, will Beijing lose to New Delhi?
China considers India as a friendly neighbor and partner. China has never provoked bilateral disputes or made any pressing demand on India over the Dalai Lama. New Delhi should respond to Beijing's goodwill with goodwill.
Only days before the US made its decision to carry out cruise missile strikes against Syria, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley dug up some Obama-era rhetoric that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go. In response, Syrian Ambassador to Ukraine Hassan Haddur explained why the US pretext for toppling the Syrian government is completely nonsensical.
Moscow has vetoed a US-backed resolution condemning the Khan Shaykun incident on April 4 as a chemical attack while demanding that Syria open up its military bases to inspections.
Russia, which has veto power as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, was joined by Bolivia in voting down the resolution. China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
Ten states, including the US, the UK and France – the Troika that put together the text of the resolution – voted in favor.
“The main objection to the resolution is that it apportioned blame prior to an objective outside investigation of the incident... The outcome of the vote was predestined, because we disagreed categorically with a document that was fundamentally misconceived,” said Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy envoy at the Security Council, who also accused other states and international organizations of making “no effort” to inspect the site of the alleged attack.
Accepting the resolution would also “legitimize” the April 7 air strike carried out by the US on the Shayrat airbase in northern Syria, from which Washington claims government planes carrying the deadly sarin nerve gas took off, Safronkov said.
Britain’s representative Matthew Rycroft said Russia’s veto – the eighth since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 – was "indefensible," and reminded Moscow of its own promise to rid the country of chemical weapons following an alleged attack in 2013.
France's President Francois Hollande said Moscow was taking on a "heavy burden of responsibility" for "obstructing" the efforts to end the Syrian crisis.
Washington's envoy to the Security Council, Nikki Haley, noted she was still hopeful of future cooperation with Moscow, and urged Russia to exert its influence over Bashar Assad to stop the "madness and violence" of the conflict, in which over 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed.
Unlike the earlier drafts of the resolution on the alleged incident, the final document did not lay the blame for it on Damascus. It also referred to the incident as the “reported use of chemical weapons” rather than stating that such use did take place as a fact.
However, the draft leaned heavily on the Syrian government in terms of demands to submit to an investigation of the incident. It said inspectors chosen by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must be given prompt and unrestricted access to “any and all sites” they choose, provided with flight plans and logs they request, and given the names of military officers “in command of any aircraft” they probe.
Damascus would also have to “arrange meetings requested, including with generals or other officers, within no more than five days of the date on which such meeting is requested.”
In the event of non-compliance with the terms, Syria could be exposed to military action mandated by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
The rebel forces controlling Khan Shaykhun were only asked to “provide delay-free and safe access” to the site of the reported incident.
The data which, according to the US, “purports to be evidence [of the Syrian government chemical attack]” is “very flimsy” and “relies on mainly open source materials, by which they [the US] mean evidence from jihadi sources, evidence from al Nusra [Front] and what they called the social media,” the former British ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, told RT.
Rights activist Malala has been named as the UN Messenger of Peace. The 19-year-old delivers lectures all over the world on girls' right to education, but there is one place she can't visit - her home country, Pakistan.
At a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday gave Malala Yousafzai the top award, saying he was inspired by her "unwavering commitment to peace" and "resolve to foster a better world."
In her speech, the 19-year-old activist didn't forget to mention her country, where she was shot and wounded by the Taliban in 2012. She expressed her love for the Islamic country and insisted that Pakistan shouldn't be viewed as an extremist country.
"I want people to know that I represent Pakistan not the extremists, not the terrorists. They are not Pakistan," Malala said.
But do Pakistanis also believe that Malala Yousafzai represents their country?
Some of the alleged militants who tried to kill Malala are now behind the bars. The Pakistani government says it is ready to provide the activist adequate security if she chooses to return to her home country. But can Malala actually go back to Pakistan?
Karachi-based journalist and documentary filmmaker Sabin Agha says that if Malala decides to return, she could be targeted once again. "Girls like Malala symbolize defiance, and there are many in Pakistan who don't like that, especially if it comes from a female," Agha told DW.
And Malala did pay a big price for her "rebellion" when she was in Pakistan: She was shot by militants in October 2012 in the Swat Valley of Pakistan's restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack and said in a statement that Malala had been attacked for promoting "secularism" in the country. After receiving initial medical treatment in Pakistan, Malala was sent to the United Kingdom where she is presently residing with her family.
Before being shot, the teenager had been campaigning for girls' right to education in Swat and was a vocal critic of Islamic extremists. She was praised internationally for writing about the Taliban atrocities in a BBC Urdu service blog.
Malala has come a long way since then. She has now become an international icon of resistance, empowerment of women and right to education, and has received numerous awards, including the European Union's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize. The teenager was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year. However, in her own country, she is looked down upon by many, who accuse her of being a US agent, set out to malign Pakistan and Islam.
Malala attackers 'arrested'
In 2013, the Pakistani army announced the arrest of the men suspected of trying to kill Malala. But experts say the fact that some of her attackers are now in the military's custody won't make the country any safer for her.
"A country which cannot guarantee the safety of its former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - who was assassinated during a public rally in the city of Rawalpindi in 2007 - cannot protect Malala or any other activist critical of the Taliban. I don't think that Malala can return to her homeland anytime soon," said Farooq Sulehria, a London-based Pakistani researcher and activist.
Agha says that Pakistan is still not a safe place for rights activists, government and military critics, as well as journalists: "In the past, the army had conducted many operations against the terrorists; however, we have not seen the level of violence go down."
A polarizing figure
Despite the fact that liberals hail Malala as a symbol of pride for the country, she has become an extremely divisive figure in Pakistan. A majority of conservatives alleges she is working against Islam and Pakistan's sovereignty.
"Isn't it strange that many Pakistanis share the Taliban's views on Malala?" asked Shareef Ahmed, a Karachi-based peace activist. "I think it shows that the Taliban ideology is popular in the country. Malala has exposed quite a lot of people, even those who are not hardcore extremists."
Many in Pakistan believe that local and international media are unnecessarily creating hype around the young activist. Right-wing parties in the South Asian nation claim that the "campaign" to promote Malala is proof that there is an "international lobby" behind the whole issue.
"I don't think that Malala deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. I think there were more deserving people in Pakistan who should have been given the award," Karachi-based Shiite activist Syed Ali Mujtaba Zaidi told DW. "Just because she (Malala) got shot by the Taliban does not make her worthy of these prizes," he added.
Supporters of the 19-year-old say that the "Malala haters" are running a smear campaign against the teenager. They argue that until the mindset of the people is changed, Malala's return to Pakistan is almost impossible.
"Malala has been portrayed as a western agent in Pakistan - a country brimming with anti-West sentiment. Anyone seen as pro-West in the country becomes a target for scorn, ridicule, hatred, and even violence," Sulehria said, adding that the country's progressive section was too weak and fragmented to ensure Malala's safety.
Agha insists the issue is not just about Malala but the overall situation of women's rights in the South Asian nation.
"Isn't it ironic that Pakistan is considered a safe place for national and international terrorists but not for its own female population?" Agha asked. "We have to change this scenario, and also the patriarchal mindset which supports violence against women."
It seems the government is continuing to kowtow to the Kingdom. Iran has publicly expressed its displeasure over Pakistan’s move to allow its former COAS to lead the alliance cobbled together by Saudi government for purposes still kept secret.
Once the government has accepted to provide a military chief to an alliance with sectarian connotations, Saudi Arabia will dictate the next moves. The claim that the alliance will only go to the support of governments who ask for it is highly naive. To start with, the formulation allows the coalition troops to enter Yemen if requested by the Saudi supported regime or to take action to suppress the majority Shias in Bahrain at the instance of the Saudi supported Sunni ruler. Pakistan must not be a party to the sectarian wars being fought in the Middle East.
As things stand there is no need for a military alliance of the Muslim countries. Better spare energies for putting life in the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to pressurise India to hold talks with Pakistan, and to tell Israel to end illegal construction and hold meaningful talks for an independent state of Palestine.