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Chinese aim for Somalia’s shores

Abdiqadar Abdigani

Fishing is one of the most highly profitable sectors across the globe and, the tuna industry alone is worth about $10 billion globally. Surveys of Somali waters indicate that there are extensive fish stocks off Somalia’s coast – this coast is, in fact, considered to be one of the richest fishing grounds in the region. Many valuable species live in the waters off the coast of Somalia as seen in data by the Sea Around Us Project, which analyses and studies the effect of fisheries on marine ecosystems around the world.

The Horn of Africa country with Africa’s longest coastline invited China to its shores and gave fishing licenses in late December 2018. Somalia arranged fishing licenses for up to 31 vessels to China to exploit tuna and other species off its coast to tap the sector for economic growth as the Somali authorities claim. The vessels are related to the China Overseas Fisheries Association, a distant-water trawling group created in 2012 to promote the East Asian giant’s competitive fishing edge abroad.

Chinese ships have been allowed to operate for a period of one-year in Somalia’s coast, with the agreement specifying that there will be an automatic renewal for an additional year. Foreign fishing vessels will also not be permitted to operate between 44 kilometers to the seaward side of the Somali baseline and the Somali baseline in order to protect small-scale fishing operations. Upon entering or leaving Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the boats will also have to declare their positions, besides the weight of catch on board by species.

Somalia’s 3,330 kilometers of coastline, probably the longest in Africa, remains the country’s most untapped resource since 1991, the start of the Somali civil war and the subsequent collapse of the central government of Somalia. Because of poor infrastructure, domestic fresh fish consumption is limited to coastal areas, which has restricted access to fish for a large portion of the Somali population. This is an addition to the lack of familiarity with fish among Somalis. There is also a tradition of preferring meat over fish in Somalia. Fish consumption in Somalia has confined the market to certain coastal areas due to certain reasons including traditional tastes and lack of consumer education programs to promote fish consumption. But the shortage in meat supply experienced, especially in periods of droughts, has derived some demand toward fish, especially among low-income groups like internally displaced people (IDP).

The emergence of Somali pirates was due to the foreign vessels overfishing in their waters and dumping toxins and wastes; because it is cheaper than the other legal way, it is easy for those foreign vessels to do so since Somalia had no functioning government at that time because of the civil war; so, there were no coastguards protecting Somalia’s coast. Secure Fisheries estimated that from 1981 to 2013, the amount of illegal fish extracted by foreign vessels from the country’s seas totaled three times the size of Somalis’ total catch. That value, suggested the NGO’s researchers, amounted to $306 million, dwarfing the $58 million worth of seafood Somali fisherman caught during the same period.

All those issues cited above made the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) consider another agency who had the capacity to extract these amazing resources to fasten the development and growth of the Somali economy. That is when the FGS knew how to play its cards smartly. To do so, the FGS considered employment opportunities for the youth which represent 75 percent of the entire Somali population and are mostly unemployed. Other sectors related to the sector of fisheries also will eventually evolve such as the industry and manufacturing sectors, finance and banking sectors and others which ultimately facilitate and help the economy of Somalia take off and revive once again.

The tropical spiny lobster, swordfish, and multiple species of tuna are among the most commercially valued fish currently found in Somalia’s coast. Miscellaneous other species are also available. These catches illustrate that there is considerable commercial value in the undeclared Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Somalia – the 200-mile area to which Somalis could lay fishing claims if they were allowed official ownership – that development of which Somalia’s coastal communities could greatly benefit. So there is a potential resource and economic opportunity from fishing off the coast of Somalia. The million dollar question which everyone asks is: Has the FGS guaranteed that China will not deplete this wonderful resource?

In West Africa, for example, Chinese vessels have been accused of draining stocks, using opaque measures to obtain licenses, and threatening the livelihood of fishermen. Beijing, increasingly aware of these practices, has cracked down by eliminating subsidies and canceling the licenses of fishing firms doing illegal activities.

Furthermore, there is another worry that China recently made a deal with the FGS which was that China will rebuild the Mogadishu seaport through a loan. So, if this deal is in exchange for exclusive fishing privileges and partial control of the harbor until the debt is paid, then, certainly, Somalia is going to be entrapped in debt by the Chinese government.

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Turkey risks angering China by criticising treatment of Uighur Muslims

Borzou Daragahi

Abduweli Ayup was out for dinner at an Istanbul restaurant with his wife and friends last weekend when news came on the television that they could hardly believe. Overcoming worries about future Chinese investment and Beijing’s emerging status as the premier world power, the government of Turkey had spoken out about the treatment of Uighurs, denouncing the torture and “brainwashing” of the minority in what it described as internment camps.

The rare public condemnation of Beijing by a major Muslim country followed reports – later disputed by China – that poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit had been killed while in detention in one of China’s network of gulags in the Muslim majority western Xinjiang province.

An impromptu celebration erupted among the diners at the Uighur eatery. The smiling restaurant owner came out to greet Ayup, a US-educated linguist and leading member of the Uighur community in Istanbul.

Among frightened members of China’s exiled Uighur community, quietly huddled together in precarious lives of exile across the globe, the news prompted an immediate exchange of excited phone calls and text messages.

“It is a good sign,” Ayup said in an interview later. “After the Turkish foreign ministry gave this statement, the Uighur people feel very happy and my friends told me they feel excited. I hope it will encourage other Muslim countries to speak up.”

For years Western powers and even the United Nations have criticised China’s treatment of ethnic Uighur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. Now Turkey, which years ago toned down the pan-Turkic nationalism it espoused to promote its interests among ethnic cousins in Central Asia and China, is indicating it is ready to speak more forcefully on the Uighur issue.

Uighurs speak a Turkic language distinct from the country’s overwhelming Han majority. Following a series of terrorist attacks by radicals, tens of thousands have been herded into re-education camps, where they are subject to psychological and physical torture, according to international human rights advocates.

Ayup, who managed to leave China with his family before Beijing effectively stopped granting permission for Uighurs to depart the country, told The Independent he was sexually assaulted during a gruelling stretch in prison for operating a Uighur language preschool.

A number of leading contemporary Uighur intellectuals have been persecuted. Perhat Tursun, among the leading poets and writers in the Uighur language, was jailed in February 2018. Nurmemet Yasin, an author, reportedly died in prison in 2011. All were accused of supporting Islamist or pan-Turkic separatist groups China considers terrorist organisations. In recent years, militant groups have carried out a number of deadly attacks in western China.

But while reports of human rights abuses in western China have increased in recent years, many leading Muslim-majority countries often quick to condemn alleged mistreatment of coreligionists in the West and Israel – including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria – have kept silent, seemingly worried they would anger Beijing.

China’s security services are pressing members of the country’s Uighur minority abroad to spy on compatriots

In Turkey, producers and editors at pro-government media outlets had been asked to avoid reporting on the topic, even as officials tacitly encouraged international journalists to speak with the Uighurs sheltering inside the country.

A group of Uighurs seeking to march in December from Istanbul to Ankara to draw attention to China’s alleged abuses were barred from completing their protest.

The Turkish foreign ministry’s 9 February statement was prompted by the reported death of Mr Heyit, imprisoned eight years ago. China later trotted out the poet and musician in a video in which he confirmed he was in jail and under interrogation but insisted he was in good health.

But the incident came after months of pressure by conservative Islamist Turkish groups pushing Ankara to act on the Uighur issue. And the Turkish statement went well beyond Heyit’s case, broadly broaching the topic of the Chinese treatment of Uighurs and calling on Beijing to close down “internment camps” China has described as vocational training facilities.

 “It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in internment camps and prisons,” said the statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy. “Uighurs who are not detained in these camps are under heavy pressure.”

China responded with uncharacteristic harshness. A statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Ankara dismissed the accusations as “made up of thin air”, noting that Turkey was also facing threats from terrorism.

“The Turkish side is extremely mistaken and irresponsible in making groundless accusations,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on 11 February. The next day Beijing issued a travel warning to Chinese citizens travelling to Turkey. Global Times, a pro-Beijing newspaper, accused Turkey of succumbing to “fake news”, and criticised Turkey’s treatment of its own Kurdish minority.

According to BBC Monitoring, news of Mr Heyit’s death first appeared in a Facebook post on 8 February by a Turkish folk singer who claimed that he had died in prison after severe torture.

After the video of Mr Heyit appeared and China criticised Turkey, some Uighurs were concerned that Ankara would retract its statement. But Turkey stood by it.

The diplomatic clash comes amid a backdrop of Ankara seeking to improve relations with long-time European partners and scaling back nascent efforts to build up trade and investment ties with China. 

The foreign ministry statement appeared to signal the opening of the floodgates on the Uighur issue, which has quickly become a hot topic on public broadcast news shows.

“Turkey does not have any reason to fear China,” says Murat Yesiltas, a security analyst at SETA, a think tank close to the Turkish government.

“Turkey’s economy is not dependent on China. There’s no military cooperation.”

Some Turkey experts see domestic politics as driving the sudden shift by Ankara. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) faces voters next month in municipal elections seen as the first test of his government’s popularity following a financial crisis that hit last year. Both nationalist parties – Meral Aksener’s Iyi Party and Devlet Bahceli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – are seen to be drawing votes from AKP.

Uighur Muslim woman tells Congressional-Executive Commission on China she asked Chinese to kill her whilst in detention camp

“Why now?” asks Selim Sazak, a Turkey scholar at Brown University. “The answer is elections. Aksener is hitting them hard. And there’s grumbling within their own base, both from the MHP and from conservatives within the party.”

In a tight vote, “anything is something that could shift the elections”, he says.

But others dismissed that theory, as Turkey’s elections appear to hinge above all else on economic concerns, and many consider treatment of a minority in a far-off land a minor issue.

“I don’t think it is about the election. Principle is first,” says Yesiltas.

 “The government is addressing this issue now because the problem is getting worse. Turkish people are sensitive about this issue and want to address it at the governmental level.”

Ayup says many Uighurs also wonder whether Turkey’s sudden outspoken defence of their kin back home was rooted in local or international political posturing, but were grateful, regardless of the motives.

“Some say it’s because Turkey couldn’t get what it wanted from China,” he says. “Whatever it was, it’s a good start and it’s a good sign for us. Because Turkey is a a key player in the Middle East, and after Turkey some other countries may stand up for us.”

Courtesy: (independent.co.uk)

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Together for Peace: Aman 2019

Iqbal Khan

Just concluded Aman 2019 was the 6th exercise of a multinational Naval initiative hosted biennially by Pakistan Navy since 2007. Exercise radiated a strong message to Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, who has been dreaming of isolating Pakistan internationally and has been playing jokers through comics of so called ‘surgical strikes’. Twenty eight countries had participated in the first Aman exercise in 2007; number rose to 46 in Aman-2019.

The serialized event is based on Pakistan Navy led concept to bring leading World navies under one umbrella for collaborative peace and security in the maritime domain. At the global level, there is strong realization that given the vast expanse of oceans and an array of maritime threats, preserving maritime order in the global commons, necessitates collaborative efforts as a matter of compulsion rather than choice. Hence, maritime security ought to be prototypically cooperative instead of being competitive.

Contemporary, threats to maritime security increasingly emanate from evolving asymmetric challenges that have deeply impacted the maritime environment. Maritime security is pivotal for a typical national security and protection of maritime routes is also necessary for sustenance of economy at national, regional and global levels. Pakistan, located at a strategic position in the Indian Ocean, needs to prepare itself for the challenges and work out viable strategy for the development of the maritime sector. Indian Ocean acts as a strategic gateway for food, maritime transportation and energy supplies to the world and the presence of major powers in the Indian Ocean Region signifies its importance under a complex security environment.

Aman-2019 was mostly a non-firing exercise as live weapon firing was only carried out in a marked area known to all ships. Exercise was conducted in two phases. Harbour phase spanned from February 08 to10; followed by the sea phase on Feb 11-12. Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Army also took part in the exercise.

The principal purpose of the Aman series is to provide a forum for understanding of each other’s maritime concepts and operational cultures, and come up with ways and means to combat common threats at sea. Aman-2019 aimed at bridging gaps and making it possible to operate together in pursuance of shared objectives. Exercise sought to enhance cooperation between countries and allows them to take benefit from mutual advantages and understand each other.

Pakistan as an important regional player wishes to work in harmony and collaboration with all regional countries for the common objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity for the people of the region. The 6th Aman Exercise was an embodiment of Pakistan’s commitment toward global peace and harmony where the naval forces from across the continents were brought on a single platform to enhance combating capabilities in the wake of traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Exercise demonstrated that participating counties could work together, keeping their political differences aside, to defeat common adversaries. These adversaries pose threats like piracy, terrorism, drug-trafficking, gun-running and human smuggling; and another greater adversary is the climate change which calls for a growing need to respond to it collectively. Despite having a recent turbulent phase of its contemporary history, Pakistan remained steadfast in fighting the forces of terror and tyranny. Pakistan continues to be a responsible state, cognizant of its role and significance in the international system.

Demonstration of collective resolve for peace by 46 countries was the hallmark of the biennial exercise hosted by Pakistan Navy. Naval assets including naval ships, helicopters, Special Forces elements and observers from these countries participated in the exercise. Alongside came the good news of Pakistan Navy acquiring a Chinese aircraft career. This acquisition was long overdue to correct the balance of power in our immediate and adjoining sea, gulfs and oceans. There is dire need for strategic cooperation to counter transnational maritime threats and encourage safety, security and stability in the region. AMAN-19 will pave the way to make the region more peaceful and secure with combined efforts by all stakeholders.

Exercise was conducted in two phases; the harbour phase spanned from 08-10 Feb and the sea phase from 11–12 Feb. The harbour phase comprised International Maritime Conference, seminars, table talks, cross ships visits, calls on, International Band Display, Maritime Counter Terrorism Demonstration, Cultural show and Food Gala. Whereas, the sea phase included practical execution of operational plans and activities finalized during harbour phase.

Pakistan as an important regional player wishes to work in harmony and collaboration with all regional countries for the common objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity for the people. Pakistan has always been an ardent supporter of maritime cooperation, and being the pioneer partner of Combined Maritime Forces’ task forces CTF-150 and CTF-151, Pakistan has been the largest regional contributor to these constructs in terms of men and material. Pakistan has commenced Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP} which aims at maintaining security posture in critical sea areas and choke points in the Indian Ocean.

Pakistan has been a proactive member of maritime security initiatives launched as part of the war against terror. Pakistan Navy has always been a consistent Security contributor in Indian Ocean Region. Task Force 88 and RMSP have been institutionalized to ensure maritime security of Gwadar and adjacent sea lanes and maintain robust security posture in critical sea areas and choke points in Indian Ocean for protection of national and international shipping.

All envisaged aims and objectives alongside operational concepts and plans of Aman 2019 stood the test of validation during the sea phase of exercise. Pakistan Navy’s collaborative maritime security engagements with regional and extra-regional navies in the form of Aman-19 signifies Pakistan’s resolve and commitment towards global peace and prosperity.

Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com

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By blindly following Washington, London risks shooting itself in the foot

Shen Jiru

On February 11, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said the UK intends to send its latest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the South China Sea in a display of “hard power.”

He argued that the UK should prepare to intervene against countries that “flout international law” such as Russia and China, backed up by new military technologies and capabilities.

This is not the first time the country has tried to intervene in these waters. London recently conducted its first joint drills with Washington in the South China Sea region. 

Last October, British Royal Navy forces vowed they would assert their rights to navigate in the South China Sea despite China’s provocation claims, the Financial Times reported.

As the former world power on which “the sun never sets,” the UK has had to relinquish the seat of global hegemony to the US since the 20th century, albeit unwillingly.

To show that it is still a great power, the country keeps asserting its exceptional relationship with the US while supporting its latest actions.

As the UK faces an uncertain future post-Brexit, London is especially eager to validate its position on the global stage. Thus, supporting the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy is a good plan.

The South China Sea was once calm and tranquil, but the US has disturbed it under the banner of freedom of navigation, and the UK has joined in. London’s moves are ignorant and unwise as the UK is neither qualified nor able to do so.

Williamson’s words are a manifestation of his overestimation of the country’s power. Deploying military capabilities involves an enormous expense, and will only further consume the nation’s strength and harm others without benefiting itself. Following the US footstep in this latest move to disturb calm waters is unfavorable to world peace and development, nor will it enhance UK’s international reputation.

London may pay a heavy price due to Brexit. Economically, it already has to pay tens of billions of euros to the EU and will lose preferential policies regarding trade with the EU members. Diplomatically, it could become Europe’s new orphan. 

“As we leave the European Union… it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings. We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required,” said Williamson.

London expects to maintain its special relationship with Washington, while establishing new military bases in Asia. But I believe its ambition to “build new alliances and rekindle old ones” is merely a delusion.

The best thing for the UK would be to strengthen external relations and focus on domestic development.

First, London should maintain multilateral cooperation with other countries, rather than stirring up trouble around the world. It is very unwise of London to set itself against Asian countries, especially with China.

Second, Britain may face a rather complicated domestic situation considering the national secession risks due to disputes in Northern Ireland. Hence it should invest its limited budget reserves on domestic development.

In fact, opinions are divided inside the UK. Michael Clarke, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, questioned whether Williamson “will be able to get the support of the rest of the government, his fellow ministers, in this forward policy.”

The UK economy grew by just 1.4 percent last year, its lowest annual figure in six years and 2019 estimates put the number even lower. In this context, if London insists on increasing defense spending and sends troops to Asia, it may find itself in hot water in the near future. As a result, I believe such dissenting opinions will gradually gain the upper hand.

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US knows well easiest way to cheap oil

Kerem Alkin

The oil-based energy game, escalated by the first and second industrial revolutions, led to World War I due to competition between leading countries and claimed the lives of 21 million people. Excessive production capacity, consumption and real estate investments all caused by the industrialization that gained speed after the war triggered the Great Depression of 1929. As a result, the US economy collapsed and Germany went bankrupt. This dark economic picture presented the world with a new world war. More than 70 million people lost their lives in World War II. The US formed a new world order in which it riveted its own empire. Under the Marshall Plan, the US exported its goods to the world, becoming the world’s largest economy.

In 1979, the ratio of total US public debt to national income was 31 percent, rising to 58 percent in 1999. The US was the leader of the world economy, and its debt burden, current account deficit and budget deficit were manageable. Today, the ratio of US public debt to national income is 108 percent. The sum of the budget deficit and the current account deficit is nearing $1.5 trillion, and 40 percent of Americans do not have $400 to spend tomorrow morning. Let me also mention the $15 trillion that the US war machine has siphoned from its citizens since the Gulf War. For the sake of its challenged economy, the US is preparing a war environment by systematically escalating tension with all the leading countries. The global trade war, caused by Trump, is striking global trade, particularly the machinery and automotive industries. In order to save its economy from the economic downswing, the US, in a very dangerous way, is pushing the entire world into an environment that depends on the war machine. It is also pushing the U.K., the EU, China and Russia to war as well as driving a Middle East summit in Poland, where even the war scenario with Iran is discussed. Every day, it is taking steps to feed tension that it hopes will save its depressed economy with arms exports.

Through Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which it has been controlling completely, it has turned the Middle East into a powder keg that could blow up at any moment. Will some 500 million people die in the new war environment that Washington has created to procure new markets for itself?

Imagine a world where a conference on security and peace in the Middle East is held in Warsaw; even though the US and Israel are represented at the top level, the EU side prefers low-level representation. Transcripts of the speeches Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivers to journalists are first distributed to the press like, “The war with Iran, which will be in the common interest of all of us, will be discussed,” but then there are claims of “mistranslation” and words are replaced with terms like “struggle.” On top of that, the date of the conference in question coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, and a bomb attack kills 27 people in Iran on the day when Netanyahu uttered these words. Also, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif conveyed the message, “Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that #WarsawCircus begins?”

US Vice President Mike Pence, who was disturbed by the EU’s low-level representation, called on his European allies to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran. Besides, he described the new payment systems project to facilitate the EU’s trade relations with Iran as an attempt to disrupt US sanctions against the Iranian regime, warning against the further breakdown of relations between Europe and the US In the meantime, Russian, Turkish and Iranian leaders met in Sochi, conveying to the world the message that the way has been cleared for historic opportunities for the future of Syria and permanent peace. This whole picture shows that if the US intends to create new war markets to save the US economy and to trigger a war between the Saudi Arabia-UAE-Egypt-Israel alliance and Iran in the Middle East; such a quest will obviously lead to a boom in global oil prices which will lead to expensive fuel prices for Americans and push the Republican Party and the Trump administration into a corner. So, if the US needs to find cheap oil for its people, it is necessary to actualize the power change in Venezuela as soon as possible and introduce cheap oil to the US In essence, the Iranian issue is directly linked to Venezuela.

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Far-right conversions to Islam are a slap to the face of extremism

Tallha Abdulrazaq

When Islamophobes convert to Islam, it’s an opportunity for everyone to build bridges. At some point or another, I’d wager we’ve each heard at least one, if not more, of these arguments before: Islam isn’t European and can never be compatible with Western culture; Muslims don’t want to integrate into Western society; Muslims are trying to impose Sharia law on non-Muslims; the “infidels” will never accept Muslims; the West is out to destroy the Islamic faith and way of life.

These arguments have been put forward by two extremes. On the one hand, a resurgent European far-right with often openly fascistic elements. On the other, extremist Muslims who cannot abide by the notion that Muslims can and have successfully lived in peace with non-Muslims. The societal convulsions caused by these two extremes have caused a negative feedback loop that nourishes both sides of this radical divide and is often fed by an insensitive and sensationalist mainstream media that thrives off demonisation, hatred and fostering mistrust between communities.  But what does it mean when extremists turn their backs on their ideologies?

Far-right politicians ‘defect’ to Islam: Two of Islam’s most intemperate far-right opponents in Europe have accepted the religion they once vociferously attacked as their own.

Arthur Wagner of the German AfD party and Joram van Klaveren who, up until recently, was one of Dutch Islamophobe-in-Chief Geert Wilders’ top lieutenants, have both turned their backs on their parties and “gone over to the enemy” – Islam. The AfD, or Alternative for Germany, is the third largest party in the German parliament, and the largest opposition party in the country. While the AfD’s website proudly proclaims that “Islam does not belong in Germany”, Wagner, as one of its former executive committee members in Brandenburg, apparently disagreed when he became a Muslim in January.

Oddly enough, the AfD has sought to distance itself from any controversy arising from Wagner’s conversion by saying that the religious beliefs of its party members are “a private matter”, despite its storied and intolerant history of anti-Islam marches. Wagner has said that since his conversion weeks ago and changing his name to Ahmad, he has received Islamophobic letters telling him to get out of Germany before he starts making bombs.

Although he still technically holds AfD party membership, Kai Berger, the head of the Brandenburg party chapter, said that he is “really disappointed” that Wagner converted to Islam and said that many party members want him to leave the AfD “but unfortunately we can’t expel him.” Wagner has told Germany’s Bild newspaper that he intends to remain in the party to build bridges between conservative non-Muslim and Muslim Germans.

Mere weeks after Wagner apparently “defected”, the Netherlands’ Joram van Klaveren announced that he too had accepted Islam and had written a book in defence of the ancient religion. The mother of all ironies is that the book had initially been intended to be a polemic railing against Islam and its followers, but the more van Klaveren studied the religion, the more he felt a growing love and attachment for it before he ultimately converted, much to Geert Wilders’ dismay.

Wilders said that he had “no words” to describe how he felt about his former confidante’s conversion to the faith they had both conspired to blot out of Dutch society. He did, however, liken van Klaveren’s decision to a “vegetarian working in an abattoir” while Jan Roos, another far-right ideologue described it as a “PR stunt” and was suitably despicable enough to add that it was like “a black man joining the Ku Klux Klan” – managing to insult all manner of different people all at once.

A slap in the face of extremism: Judging by how these two conversions – which are by no means unique, considering another former Wilders ally, Arnoud van Doorn, also converted in 2013 – have managed to trigger angry radical right-wingers across Europe, I believe this is yet another opportunity for people to de-escalate social tensions. The conversions of these two men, given their public standing, is a slap in the face of rejectionists on both sides.

Islam is widely recognised as the fastest growing religion in the world, with the Muslim population of Europe set to more than double to 11.2 percent of the total population by 2050, according to the Pew Research Center.

According to the same research, even in the unlikely event of total prevention of Muslim immigration, they would still rise to 7.4 percent of Europe’s population. As such, it is clear that Muslims are not going anywhere.

That message applies equally to Muslim extremists and European fascists, both of whom think violence and hatred born of irrational fear and radicalism is the answer. If Muslims are here to stay and will represent ever higher proportions of European populations, then it is up to sensible Muslim and non-Muslim Europeans to build the kind of bridges between communities that allow long-term harmonious and peaceful coexistence that we all know is possible. The only solution to the tensions in Europe is for a concerted effort to stop the maligning of Muslims in the mainstream media, whipping up hatred against them because of their beliefs and practices, and discriminating against them in terms of job opportunities. Similarly, it is incumbent upon Muslims living in the West to accept that they are living amongst people of other beliefs, traditions and customs that differ from those of their own or, if they are born in the West as I was, are different from those of their parents.

It is entirely unhelpful when some communities decide to isolate themselves and not engage with those whom they share the land, living space and resources with. If communities reach out to one another in a spirit of openness and do not leave the middle ground open for extremists of both bents to invade, then a more peaceful and cohesive society can be forged. Who wouldn’t want that?

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Everyone has a right to good education

Amina J Mohammed

Throughout my life, I have seen the power of education. I have witnessed how quality education for all can support the creation of dynamic economies and help sustain peace, prosperity and stability. I have also observed how education instills in individuals, no matter their circumstances, a strong sense of self, as well as confidence in their place in the world and their future prospects. But I have also seen what happens when young people and their communities are robbed of education – and of the optimism it engenders. In my country, Nigeria, the extremist group Boko Haram purposely removes young people, especially young girls, from education to engineer a lost generation. The consequences are manifold: loss of dignity, exclusion, declining health, poverty and stagnating economic growth, and the denial of rights.

We know that each additional year of schooling raises the average annual GDP growth by .37 per cent, while increasing an individual’s earnings by up to 10 per cent. If every girl worldwide received 12 years of quality education, lifetime earnings for women could double, reaching $30 trillion. And if all girls and boys completed secondary education, an estimated 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. According to a 2018 World Bank report, universal secondary education could even eliminate child marriage. In today’s deeply interconnected world, the benefits of strong and inclusive education systems extend even further. Education gives people the knowledge they need to recognise the importance of safeguarding the planet’s finite resources, appreciate diversity and resist intolerance, and act as informed global citizens.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, created in 2000 to guide global development over the subsequent 15 years, gave new impetus to efforts to ensure education for all. From 2000 to 2015, primary-school enrolment in the developing world rose from 83 per cent to 91 per cent, reducing the number of out-of-school primary-school-age children from 100 million to 57 million. Moreover, from 1990 to 2015, the global literacy rate among people aged 15 to 24 increased from 83 per cent to 91per cent, with the gap between men and women declining substantially. But much remains to be done. Globally, at least 263 million children were out of school in 2016. This includes half of all children with disabilities in developing countries. Furthermore, half of all children of preschool-age – the most crucial years for their cognitive development – are not enrolled in early-childhood education. The situation deteriorates further in conflict zones, where girls are almost two and a half times as likely to be out of school as their peers in stable countries. And this does not cover the estimated 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower-secondary-school age – 58 per cent of that age group – who are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. To help close these gaps, the successor to the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, also emphasises education. SDG4 commits the world to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – essentially to harness the power of education to unlock every person’s potential. Despite the scale of the challenge and the diverse barriers that can restrict and disrupt learning, we know what an effective strategy would entail.

First, to be a true force for change, education itself must be transformed in response to the realities of accelerating globalisation, climate change and labour market shifts. While advanced technologies – such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and blockchain – raise new challenges, they may be able to play a role in improving educational outcomes. Digital skills must be part of any curriculum, and new alliances with the tech sector – which can provide valuable insights into these topics – should be actively pursued.

Second, an inclusive and lifelong approach, focused on reaching the most marginalised and vulnerable populations, is essential. As Unicef’s Innocenti Report Card 15 shows, this does not mean sacrificing high standards. In fact, as the report points out, children of all backgrounds tend to do better when they are in a more socially integrated school environment. Such an inclusive approach will require sharing best practices and investing in what is proven to work. Meanwhile, development partners must provide long-term support that emphasises capacity-building and institutions, and balances humanitarian, economic, and security imperatives.

For education systems and services to be truly inclusive, however, they must also leave no one behind, such as refugees. Unesco’s latest Global Monitoring Report estimates that refugees have missed 1.5 billion school days since 2016. While eight of the top ten hosting countries, including several low- and middle-income countries, have shouldered considerable costs despite the strain on education systems to ensure that refugees attend school alongside nationals, most countries either exclude refugees from national education systems or assign them to separate facilities. This entrenches disadvantage and hampers social integration. The two landmark global compacts on migration and refugees adopted by UN member states last December point the way toward addressing this challenge.

Achieving the needed educational transformation will require far more financing than is currently on offer. As it stands, the global annual funding gap for education amounts to nearly $40 billion. Closing this gap will require not just increased domestic financing, but also a renewed commitment from international donors. Everyone has the right to an education. Upholding this right – and achieving SDG4 – will require well-designed strategies, coupled with a prolonged commitment to implementation and effective cooperation among all relevant stakeholders. The UN and its agencies will continue to support such actions, as we strive to ensure that no one is left behind.

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The battle over Huawei ‘spyware’

Yoichi Funabashi

US President Donald Trump has proudly tweeted “I am a Tariff Man,” and brandished the tariff card in an effort to convince China to open up its market and reduce its trade surplus with the United States. However, the fiercest geoeconomic dispute between the US and China is not about tariffs, but instead the contest over digital hegemony in areas such as artificial intelligence, big data, quantum computing and facial recognition technology.

This was dramatically shown on Dec. 1, when Canadian authorities, acting at the request of the US government, arrested Huawei CFO and Deputy Chairwoman Meng Wanzhou as she transited through the Vancouver airport on her way to Mexico. She is the daughter of Huawei’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengei, and the “princess” of a firm that China boasts as its largest global corporation.

On the day of the arrest, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were holding a summit in Buenos Aires. While US National Security Advisor John Bolton had received prior notice of Meng’s arrest, Trump has said he was unaware of her arrest at the time of his meeting with Xi.

According to Canadian authorities, Meng violated US sanctions by using dummy companies in Hong Kong as intermediaries to initiate financial dealings with Iran. Meng allegedly submitted falsified document to US financial institutions by pretending these dummy companies were not linked to Huawei to deceive banks and evade US sanctions against Iran. The US, meanwhile, has made broader and more serious accusations against Huawei. In late January, the FBI charged the firm with a range of crimes including bank fraud, theft of trade secrets and conspiracy to defraud the US

The real aim of the American authorities therefore is to address the security threat that Huawei poses to the US For more than a decade, the US has suspected that its products contain a secret electronic “backdoor” that, when necessary, can be used to steal or destroy a user’s data or block an information system. (Huawei denies these claims.) The US is also concerned that if 5G is introduced widely, Huawei, which is already competitive in the field, could come to dominate the global market.

In a 2005 report, the Rand Corp., an American think tank, pointed out that “Huawei maintains deep ties with the Chinese military, which serves a multifaceted role as an important customer, as well as Huawei’s political patron and research and development partner.” The same report warned that China’s military, commercial IT companies and state R&D infrastructure comprise a “digital triangle” capable of penetrating deep into the networks of the US and its allies.

In 2009, Huawei entered discussions to buy out a Canadian rival, Nortel Networks Corp. However, owing to the global recession in the wake of the Lehman shock, Nortel went bankrupt. During this period, Nortel was rumored to have been subject to continuous overwhelming hacking attacks and that most of its sensitive information ended up in Huawei’s hands. It was not that the US government was unable to respond. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, the National Security Agency, which possesses a cybersecurity force, implemented a secret operation known as Shotgiant. Through the operation, the NSA infiltrated the network of Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, probing for weaknesses and obtaining email communications among top Huawei executives. It remains unclear as to whether they found evidence that Huawei was using spyware in its products.

What is certain is that intelligence agencies around the world are deeply involved in the conflict concerning Huawei. This includes China. Enacted in 2017, China’s cybersecurity law extends national sovereignty over cyberspace and stipulates that “network operators shall provide technical support and assistance to public security organs and national security organs that are safeguarding national security and investigating criminal activities in accordance with the law” (Article 28).

China also established a “national information law” that requests the support and cooperation necessary for the activities of national intelligence institutions. Chinese networks and telecommunication companies, which are represented by Huawei, are not limited to a “digital triangle” that connects companies with the military and national research institutes. In fact, they comprise a “digital quadrangle” that includes intelligence agencies. However, China’s enactment of the 2017 cybersecurity law immediately prompted countries that share secret information the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (collectively known as the Five Eyes alliance) between intelligence agencies to suddenly accelerate the ongoing trend of excluding Huawei products from government agencies and contractors.

Among the Five Eyes members, Britain has yet to exclude Huawei. However, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Alex Younger, has pushed the British government to make a decision on whether to exclude Huawei or not. He has warned that if Huawei participates in building a 5G network, it would place the British intelligence network at risk as military-related communications could be intercepted. Who will gain control of communications, information, encryption and interception in the 5G era? The battle concerning Huawei “spyware” is also a struggle pitting the Five Eyes alliance and other important American allies against Chinese intelligence.

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Imran Khan’s accomplishments so far: An analysis

Ramsha Afridi

There is no doubt that ever since the election of Imran Khan, Pakistanis have clung on to the highest of hopes for the betterment of Pakistan.

The former cricket star has made quite a fundamental impression on Pakistanis from all ages, creeds and differences; mostly because of his ravishing promises and pledges for the Pakistani people and the country.

Imran Khan’s PTI government had already made quite an impact within Pakistani culture and politics; garnering support from all over the country; evidently, so much that the party performed so well that it won the extremely challenging national general elections.

With the PTI party and Imran Khan being sworn in to power by the people with pride, confidence and high expectations; it is fair to say that an anaylsis of Imran Khan’s accomplishment is much needed, in 2019.

Here are Imran Khan’s top seven achievements of his prime ministership of Pakistan so far,

1)  Imran Khan takes climate change seriously, so much so that his government successfully took control of Mafia owned land in punjab. With pursuits of turning it in to an eco-friendly forrest under his initative known as Plant4Pakistan.

2) He swiftly took upon solving Pakistan’s water crisis to his own hands. The eager leader successfully raised millions of pounds for the Pakistan Dam Fund; both nationally and internationally, just weeks after being sworn in to leadership.

3) Khan’s anti corruption policies have been affirmed as positive. The PTI government holds ‘strict accountability’ towards any activities that maybe deemed as corrupt. For example an Assests recovery unit has been developed, to expose hidden assets.

4) The former cricketer, has been focusing greatly on tourism in Pakistan. Khan, recently spoke at the World Government Summit and spoke about how Pakistan has fundemental potential for a successful tourism industry.

5) The government led after Khan, has decreased factory gas prices nationally. This is excellent for the Pakistani economy.

6) The five million home iniative, is a housing program and promise by the PTI government; aimed to provide housing for the poorer community of Pakistan. This huge project has already began to make progression.

7) Imran Khan’s eco-friendly dream goes further; energy production through waste is now in progress.

Imran Khan, is no doubt making waves right in the very heart of Pakistan’s political spectrum. The achievements of the PTI government are unprecedented and surpassed by any previous government, and overcome various challenges.

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U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan sees ‘Long Road’ ahead for final feal

Vanessa Romo

In remarks at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said a “long agenda” of issues need to be resolved before a peace deal can be finalized.

The chief U.S. negotiator for peace in Afghanistan said Friday that after several months of talks, he has reached agreement with the Taliban on some key issues, but stressed that a substantive peace deal is far from finished and hinges on dialogue between the militant group and that country’s government.

Speaking at the United State Institute of Peace, a Washington think tank, Zalmay Khalilzad cautioned that “a long agenda of must be addressed,” but reiterated that, in principal, a “framework” agreement had been reached.

“What we’ve achieved so far is significant. But these are small, two or three small steps in a long journey,” Khalilzad said in a hoarse voice, the result of 42 hours of talks with the Taliban.

Last month, Khalilzad revealed the Taliban has consented to guarantee that it will not allow terrorist groups to use Afghanistan as a platform to stage attacks against the U.S. or its allies, as al-Qaida did in 2001. In return, the U.S. has agreed to the possibility of troop withdrawal as part of a package deal.

Details of what mechanisms will be implemented to ensure that the Taliban complies with its side of the bargain still need to be fleshed out, Khalilzad said. He also clarified that the Taliban’s negotiators agreed to the condition, but not its leadership.

“We will not just rely on people’s words,” he said, noting that Taliban leaders have said “they do not want to go back to the way things were.”

Among several points of contention, however, is the Taliban’s unwillingness to negotiate directly with the government of Afghanistan, which they argue is propped up by the U.S. government.

But Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul, suggested that the war-weary nation is prime for peace. “All sides say they have learned lessons from the past,” he said.

Additionally, he said Taliban officials are willing to take part in a “multiparty arrangement.” It is unclear which stakeholders that may include.

He is encouraging intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible to shape the future of the country.

“We are looking to be helpful and offer what we can, but it’s for the Afghans to decide. It’s for the Afghans to have the conversations. It’s for the Afghans to negotiate with each other. It’s for the Afghans to accept each other,” Khalilzad said.

“We cannot be a substitute for decisions that they must take,” he added.

Another obstacle on the “very long road” to peace, is the Taliban’s refusal to enact a cease-fire. Their position is that continued fighting presents the only path to gain concessions from the government, whereas a permanent cease-fire eliminates any incentive for the government to concede to their demands.

Still, Khalilzad remained optimistic about hammering out a mutually beneficial deal going so far as to suggest that a final peace agreement could be secured by July – before the nation’s presidential election.

Vikram Singh, a senior adviser at the Institute of Peace, said the Afghan government appears to have shifted its tone over the last week, following peace talks in Moscow.

“I think the government realizes it risks making itself irrelevant if they’re not much more proactive,” Singh told NPR.

On the heels of negotiations with the U.S. in Doha, Qatar, from Jan. 21 through Jan. 26, Taliban leaders met with a Russian delegation for two days in Moscow earlier this week. The Afghan government was excluded from both.

“That was a bad move and they’re starting to see that things can move without them,” Singh said. “Rather than seeming like they’re in control, they’ve been pretty negative but this week they took a soft tone on the [Taliban] meeting in Moscow.”

Singh added that it’s significant that in his speech on Friday Khalilzad rejected the notion that the U.S. is handing control of the country over to the Taliban, who ruled from 1996 to 2001.

However, the envoy emphasized that the Taliban will be among several stakeholders who will be participate in the power-sharing of a new government.

With regard to how the Islamist group’s influence will affect women in Afghanistan, Khalilzad said the Taliban “have a different view on this issue now.”

“They say they made in a mistake in how they dealt with women the last time,” he said.

NPR’s Scott Simon, who spent time in Afghanistan shortly after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban, reported, “Under the Taliban, women couldn’t leave their homes without a male relative. Women couldn’t go to school or work. They couldn’t speak in public. They couldn’t be treated by a doctor. They could be beaten for reading a book.”

The Afghanistan of today “is a different world than 18, 19 years ago. It’s a different country and it will take time for Taliban, perhaps to appreciate that but the message that they have given me is that they understand that they cannot go back,” Khalilzad said.

Now, girls have greater access to education and women can work, they hold prominent positions in the media and government, and they have become an important part of the workforce.

The Taliban has issued statements about respecting human rights but women throughout the country are concerned that there will not be adequate checks to protect their relatively recently restored freedoms, NPR’s Tom Bowman reported.

During the State of the Union address last week, President Trump touched on the ongoing war, which has been mired in a stalemate and is about to enter into its 18th year.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump said, just a month after announcing, to the surprise of the Afghan government, that he is ordering the withdrawal of 7,000 troops from the country.

On Friday, Khalilzad said the order to withdraw troops will depend on conditions on the ground and progress in the talks.

That stands in contrast to information gathered by Bowman who said, “People I talk with believe President Trump could order out maybe thousands of U.S. troops who are training Afghans and shift that to coalition partners.”

The remaining U.S. troops – between 7,000 to 8,000 — would shift their focus to counterterrorism efforts, according to Bowman.

Courtesy: (npr.org)