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US polls 2016: Hilary trumps Donald in the first debate

Shahid Islam in Toronto
 
Democracy has a distinct smell, emitted from the verbosity and the body language of contesting protagonists vying for votes.  The smell is   more pungent during polls, protestations and debates for leadership.
Although faring comparatively better in a pre-election televised debate doesn’t necessarily ensure a candidate’s victory, campaign for the November race for the White House had entered into its final phase with the first face to face debate on Monday night between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Full Story
Shahid Islam in Toronto
 
Democracy has a distinct smell, emitted from the verbosity and the body language of contesting protagonists vying for votes.  The smell is   more pungent during polls, protestations and debates for leadership.
Although faring comparatively better in a pre-election televised debate doesn’t necessarily ensure a candidate’s victory, campaign for the November race for the White House had entered into its final phase with the first face to face debate on Monday night between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Issues & preparedness
Judged from the outlooks, Hilary seemed healthy, composed and fit for the job while Trump looked a bit distraught and shabby. Yet, the 90 minutes long debate displayed the first glow of a tough battle in which the two opponents are only few points apart in the opinion polls and over 20 per cent swing voters still remain undecided about who to choose and vote.
The Monday debate took place in New York’s Hoftspa University, It was choreographed in segments by a seasoned moderator who had stewarded over selective topics to judge what the candidates planned to do to improve the US economy, broken race relations, cyber security, foreign policy, and war on terror. Missing from the topics was the immigration issue on which Trump had earned a bad name as being extremely racist, chauvinistic and xenophobic.
In the perceptual matrix, Democratic hopeful Hilary Clinton displayed better deft and proved more detail-savvy by being specific on how she would create jobs to ensure increased growth and prosperity. She wants to improve the lots of the middle class by levying more taxes on the rich, by increasing exports, and by reviving the US’s former clout as the greatest innovator nation on earth.
She’d sarcastically touted Trump’s tax policy as ‘Trumped up trickle down’ as Trump once again reiterated how he’ll offer tax relief to the rich to incentivize them toward more investments in order to stop US jobs moving out of its borders. He thinks he can reduce national debt from the staggering 20 trillion dollars through this and other fiscal incentives.
As well, Trump insisted on getting paid from NATO members and countries like Saudi Arabia which the US protects by paying alone over 75 per cent of overall NATO budgets.
 
Antagonized allies
Hilary by-passed getting pulled into a dirty and detailed exchange on those issues that are designed to antagonize US’s entrenched allies. As a seasoned diplomat, she rather emphasized that success in the US’s global war on terror depends on the cooperation of the frontline Muslim countries and Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim tirades are making the US’s global undertaking more difficult to execute, as they are detrimental to internal communal cohesiveness.
For sure, in this first face to face debate, Hilary had impressed voters more than Donald, without either of them hurting each other irreparably. Unlike other televised presidential debates since the 1960s, no knock off blows were exerted by either side. Nor Mr. Trump sullied his blotted image further by gushing out disgusting rancor, racist remarks and verbiages that were often insulting to his opponent, to the Blacks, Muslims and the Hispanics, as well as to the womenfolks whom he once termed as ‘pigs’.
Besides, Mr. Trump had to retreat into total defensiveness when the question of his tax filing arose. He pretext simply once again was that his non-filing fault lying in the continuation of an audit and promised to file sooner only if Hilary had disclosed the 30,000 emails which she insisted to have been erased by mistake from her private email account.
“Something he’s hiding,” exclaimed Hilary with a subdued giggle. He either doesn’t earn enough as he claims, or he’s evading his tax obligation by not paying enough taxes, she surmised. On this count too, Hilary appeared more forthcoming and honest.
 
Statesmanship vs. entrepreneurship
In this debate, the viewers were more interested in knowing who among the contestants displayed more statesmanlike propensity and postures, and they had a hint of it. For sure, Hilary had traversed a long way in politics, diplomacy and statesmanship by virtue of being a former Senator, Secretary of State, and a first lady at the White House.
Donald Trump, to the contrary, showed his dexterity and devotion to profit maximization once Hilary accused him of saying during the 2008 real estate meltdown that ‘I’ll buy now and make money.” Many voters believe Trump belongs to the corporate world and remains detached from the middle and lower classes keeping the USA going.
That aside, Hilary arrived at the venue with calmness, confidence and a plan not to get carried away into something stormy enough to propel her toward a tug of war and distract from showing the audience her innate ability to preserve calmness amidst provocations. This quality is of much essence given the constant provocations aimed across the world against the USA by its perceived and real enemies.
Trump too perhaps aimed for same calmness, but his intrinsic wildness and bellicosity prevailed throughout the 90 minutes long debate as he assailed Hilary on many counts, including hammering her on why she did not carry out such grand policies in the last thirty years while she had the opportunity as a public official.
The best part of the debate was Hilary’s reminder that the Democratic Party under President Barack Obama had extricated the USA from the dark pit of a diabolic disaster brought in by the previous Republican regime of George W Bush (jr.). She reminded the audience that she and her government’s policies worked to revive the US economy and its lost global stature to where it stands today.
 
Hilary has a plan
She also identified lack of understanding among communities and the police, flaws in the criminal laws and justice system, as well as possession of guns by those who do not deserve to carry guns as the root causes of the deteriorated race relations and the overall law and order situations which Trump promised to improve without offering any specific methodology.
What, however, emerged clearly from this tortuous debate is that Hilary Clinton has a plan to build upon what the eight years long Obama administration had embarked upon, which she thinks will overcome the sagging domestic and international pitfalls of the US policies. On substantive issues, Donald Trump once again dithered in the whirlpool of utopian spells that had inspired him in the first place to building wall with Mexico and shutting all Muslims from entering the USA.
In a nutshell, Hilary posed as a pragmatic professional who’d learnt from her experience of the past while Donald Trump dwelt over fantasy-driven prescriptions and remained bullishly audacious, as he often is. Critics say his ill mannerism doesn’t go well with the White House etiquettes that are so needed to lead the USA and the world’s troubled spots where disruption to global peace and security occurs almost daily.
And, as all the US Presidents must interact with all other global leaders to diffuse crisis, to debate over military and diplomatic interventions, and to devise ways to preserve global peace, Donald Trump didn’t prove worthy of being an ideal candidate for the job in the Oval office.
Yet, there are those who think he still has the time to change his track and try to convince the swing voters of his desire to amend as per the need of the job before voters cast the final die on the ballots on November 8.

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DELHI SHUTTING COAL-FIRED PPs IN INDIA
Why India insisting on Rampal project in Bangladesh?
Faruque Ahmed
 
Bangladesh had never known before that a ‘friendship’ power plant with India under joint venture initiative will be the most debated project and center of many misgivings with the potential to wreck the foundation of the friendship and trust.
The location of the coal-fired power plant namely ‘Bangladesh-India Friendship Company Ltd’ closer to Sundarbans’ (14 km) periphery is agitating the people as they fear its adverse environmental impact may destroy the forest and the livelihood of several million people of Bagerhat and Khulna region.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
Bangladesh had never known before that a ‘friendship’ power plant with India under joint venture initiative will be the most debated project and center of many misgivings with the potential to wreck the foundation of the friendship and trust.
The location of the coal-fired power plant namely ‘Bangladesh-India Friendship Company Ltd’ closer to Sundarbans’ (14 km) periphery is agitating the people as they fear its adverse environmental impact may destroy the forest and the livelihood of several million people of Bagerhat and Khulna region.
Even Indian government environmental guidelines do not allow setting up such a plant within 25 km periphery of forest and eco-sensitive areas and it has also laid up the strict procedure of public hearing before selecting any spot to make sure it will not be harmful to people and the ecology of the region. On Indian side of the border establishing such project is totally impossible.
 
India shutting coal-based plants
But why India is pressing for it and Bangladesh government is allowing the project ignoring nationwide protest and local and global opposition of environmental groups and human rights organizations remains a tricky point.
Besides, when India is shutting most of its coal-fired power projects, why it is determined to set up another such a plant across the border is also not clear. In addition, the arrangements for financing of the project by $1.6 billion Indian Exim Bank loan has also raised question as to why Bangladesh has to take the loan with repayment liability when India will have 50 percent of its ownership without any liability.
In fact both Bangladesh and India will have cash collateral of 15 percent each with the understanding that India is becoming owner of half of the project using loans that Bangladesh is taking from the Indian bank. Both countries have decided to set up two 1320 MW power plants at the location regardless of the mounting opposition within Bangladesh to the project.
Even the two governments are refusing to relocate the project site at a distance; which could reduce the opposition and the friendship company could really get a happy acceptance instead of making people hostile. There is nothing transparent and even the land acquisition of the project was reportedly completed before the deal was signed.
The highly critical question agitating people’s mind is why India is setting up coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh when they themselves are closing most of their plants on environmental grounds.  Reports said Indian Energy Ministry in June this year announced plans to cancel four proposed coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 16 gigawatts (GW).
The plans previously called for four ultra mega power plants (UMPP) across Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha, but these are now to be cancelled due to lack of interest from the host states.
 
India’s major policy shift
This is yet another major policy shift underscoring how seriously India is working to transform, modernize and diversify its electricity sector away from coal based power plants. Interestingly, for eight years, these four proposed power plants were in the planning, preparation and land acquisition stage. However, community resistance to compulsory land acquisition and forced resettlement together compelled the Indian government to scrap the plans.
Moreover, two of the UMPPs (8GW) planned for coastal locations that were to be run on imported coal has also been scraped to reduce dependence on imported coal; which is raising power tariff in India.
These four UMPPs would require a total of 46 million tones of coal per annum and half of it was to be imported bringing pressure on balance of payment. India produces low quality coal and its use in Bangladesh plants as agreed upon will make our environmental condition even worse.
India now plans more solar-based power plants to come from wind, biomass, small scale hydro-electricity and waste-to-power based plants.
Besides, water crisis is seriously affecting operation of coal-fired power plants.
Despite the Indian government’s determination to double or even triple domestic coal  production, the power sector is now being hit by water scarcity — with a new report warning the crisis could get far, far worse.
Only recently, operators of 2100 megawatt (MW) coal-fired Farakka power station in West Bengal have closed down five of the six turbines due to lack of water. A few days later the 500 MW sixth unit was also shut down. Another report in May last said Bihar government had shut down two mega power plants for shortage of water.
 
Water, environmental catastrophe
Why water is so important to run coal-fired power projects? It is because, as expert say, water has to be pumped from rivers to cool the turbine but later hot water is being pumped back into the rivers with chemical waste. It will pollute water, air and destroy forest. It kills fish and other elements in the water and creates much more ecological crisis. Coal storage will create huge problem spreading dust over the region and ash management will be the biggest challenge to find wasteland for dumping. There is no such waste land around Sundarbans and the consequences will be severe on the local environment. 
The CEO of BIFCL, who is an Indian national told local media few days back that they would take water from Pashur river and pump it back. And such disclosure is enough to figure out what setback Sundarban forest will face and its water bodies including rivers will suffer from such situation.
A TATA report rated 47 coal-fired power plants around India in terms of efficiency and compliance with environmental regulations, concluding that together they are among the world’s “most inefficient” plants with “immense scope for improvement”.
It said the power sector scored “poorly on all parameters”, receiving an overall score of 23 per cent – compared to the 80 per cent that a plant following best practices could potentially achieve –and with 40 per cent of the rated plants scoring below 20 per cent.
The average efficiency of the plants in the study was 32.8 per cent, one of the lowest among major coal-based power-producing countries. The average CO2 emissions figure was 1.08 kg/kWh, which the report noted is 14 per cent higher than China’s.
The study found that the plants collectively use around 22billion cubic metres of water, or over half of India’s domestic water need. And it noted that 55 per cent of the units were in violation of emissions standards “which are already extremely lax”.
In addition, the plants were found to be operating at an average of 60-70 per cent capacity. Bangladesh wants to live with India as a good neighbour and people here expect India will be mindful of the people’s sensitivities. What India thinks best for itself should also think the same for Bangladesh. It is not yet late to review the plan.

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Why Trump’s suicidal economics should worry global markets

M.K. Venu
the Wire
 
While questions over America’s persistently high current account deficit remain, Trump’s economic revival plan misdiagnoses the problem and wrongly ignores global market logic.
Global markets will acutely worry about the suicidal economics advocated by US presidential candidate Donald Trump during the first round of televised debates. Markets will remain on edge because surveys indicate a close fight between Trump and Clinton. There is bound to be more nervousness closer to the elections.
Full Story
M.K. Venu
the Wire
 
While questions over America’s persistently high current account deficit remain, Trump’s economic revival plan misdiagnoses the problem and wrongly ignores global market logic.
Global markets will acutely worry about the suicidal economics advocated by US presidential candidate Donald Trump during the first round of televised debates. Markets will remain on edge because surveys indicate a close fight between Trump and Clinton. There is bound to be more nervousness closer to the elections.
China contributes 35% to world GDP
If some of Trump’s ideas were to be implemented, the world would undoubtedly slip into a new phase of recession. He threatened to act against US companies that leave America to set up operations in cheaper locations like Mexico and China. He said NAFTA was the worst trade deal America had signed and therefore he would not allow American companies shifting operations to Mexico to export goods back to the US.
Trump also made a blanket charge that the US was getting ripped off by most other world economies and asserted that America cannot allow its companies and jobs to shift to other countries.  In effect, Trump is also blaming multilateral trade institutions because some of the actions he proposes clearly fall foul of existing World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Trump has particularly targeted China for “manipulating its currency” to build a massive trade surplus with the US. He said Americans were simply importing more consumption goods and running a high current account deficit, thus helping other economies like China. Earlier, he spoke about raising import tariffs to as high as 45% on many items imported from China into the US. A Hong Kong-based economist has estimated that China could lose up to 3 percentage points of its GDP if the US were to sharply raise import tariffs on Chinese products.
And if China’s GDP were to fall so drastically, one can well imagine the havoc it would wreak on other major economies, including India.  China still contributes to about 35% of global GDP.
 
Whipping up paranoia
In short, Trump’s recipe for US economic revival is based on an unabashedly isolationist trade and economic regime, secured behind high tariff walls. He claims by doing so he would bring US companies and some 25 million jobs back to America. Only problem is most of these US companies operating in emerging economies like China and India do not quite subscribe to Trump’s vision and in fact are fully backing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. They know fully well that competitively distributed supply chains across different countries cannot be reversed overnight by the quixotic ideas of Trump.  They are not even impressed by Trump’s promise of a dramatic cut in corporate tax rates. They clearly prefer Clinton’s more nuanced approach to global trade deals.
Trump is whipping up paranoia about “America turning into a third world economy” and cites the US trade deficit figure of $800 billion annually to argue that the world is dumping goods in America, which runs a deficit with every country. All this is happening because of the bad trade deals signed by the US government, he says. Trump also accuses the US government of accumulating a debt of $20 trillion with virtually nothing to show for it.
Of course, in this ongoing Trump tirade, what is not stated or admitted is that for years Americans have been fuelling their excess consumption simply by borrowing from abroad, mainly China. At the height of the global economic boom in 2006, about 48% of all American treasury bills were owned by foreigners and a substantial portion of this is held even today by China.  In a way, China has been selling goods to America and even financing it at a low cost. It is a bit like vendor financing where the seller of the goods also organises financing for you at low cost.
 
Uncertainty in financial markets
This American consumer behaviour was characterized by well known economist Stephen Roach as follows: “The excesses of bubble-dependent American consumers provided high-octane fuel for China’s export machine. As export-led Chinese growth surged so did its savings surplus. China recycled that surplus back to the US in order to keep America’s consumption bonanza alive… China, the lender, was a perfect match for America, the debtor.”
This party had to come to an end and the music stopped when the 2008 global financial crises hit America and the rest of the world.  The recession that followed was a wakeup call for the US to move away from a consumption-led economy to a more savings and investment-led one.  Conversely, China, its largest trading partner resolved to fuel its economic growth based more on internal consumption by paring its savings rate (China was saving over 40% of its GDP). America’s high consumption and China’s high savings needed some re-balancing.
At the height of the US debt ceiling crisis in 2013, Roach said:
“Tough questions face America. Without China as a buyer of US treasuries [bonds], who will step up to fill the void, and on what terms?”. Roach may have been prophetic because this week Bloomberg released a disturbing news report that the biggest buyers of US treasuries – central banks of China and Japan – are selling like never before. China has been consistently selling US government bonds for the last few quarters from its $3 trillion plus kitty of forex reserves, possibly to fund other physical assets, partly in infrastructure projects across Asia.  China is now looking to have greater diversification of its forex reserves into non-dollar assets.  If this process continues apace, and China sells US government bonds in its reserves, the US will see higher interest rates going forward.  This would cause a fresh round of financial markets uncertainty around the world. It will be another big challenge for the US Fed Reserve.
 
High current account deficit
Clearly, there is a complex background to America’s persistently high current account deficit (CAD). Donald Trump’s economic revival plan seems to ignore the fact that America has consciously abandoned low technology manufacturing because it doesn’t have competitive advantage anymore in making steel, textiles, automobiles etc. Global market logic dictates that the US economy rely more on high technology and innovation led value added growth and leave low-cost manufacturing to companies in the developing world. Consequently, the US imports most of these goods; resulting in a high CAD. Trump wrongly blames America’s rising CAD on unfair trade deals with the other economies.
The real reason for the high CAD has been the massive import-led consumption in the US of most labour intensive manufactures and the near zero savings by the Americans in recent times. One must remember the US consciously admitted China in the WTO at the turn of this century.  America’s CAD peaked at over 6% of GDP in 2006 but it came down to about 3% of GDP after the 2008 recession, giving some hope of a structural re-balance. However, that trend is now somewhat reversed as the CAD is going up again, indicating that no sustained savings and investment led growth is happening in the US economy.

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SAARC Summit in Islamabad postponed

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi
 
New Delhi’s decision to boycott the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad next November followed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan’s decision to do the same resulted in the cancellation of the summit.  Nepal, the current Saarc chairperson, announced it from Kathmandu.
The South Asian nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since their independence from Great Britain in 1947. Upon obtaining freedom and sovereignty, both India and Pakistan did not waste time in invading and dividing Jammu and Kashmir which lay a sandwich between them. Both conducted 3 deadly wars over the status of alien Kashmir valley.
Full Story
Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi
 
New Delhi’s decision to boycott the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad next November followed by Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan’s decision to do the same resulted in the cancellation of the summit.  Nepal, the current Saarc chairperson, announced it from Kathmandu.
The South Asian nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since their independence from Great Britain in 1947. Upon obtaining freedom and sovereignty, both India and Pakistan did not waste time in invading and dividing Jammu and Kashmir which lay a sandwich between them. Both conducted 3 deadly wars over the status of alien Kashmir valley.
And both want Kashmir lands to decorate their own territories and in the process over 100,000 Kashmiris (mostly Muslims) lost their lives as Indian forces mercilessly have run over them with guns and traps.
 
Indian attempt to isolate Pakistan
India does not want to surrender Kashmir to Kashmiris while Pakistan seeks to get Kashmir from India. It is because of Kashmir India got WMD with the help of UN veto remembers, followed by Pakistan doing the same.
India and Pakistan cause tensions in the region by regular crossfire operations essentially to terrorize the besieged Kashmiris. One has no idea if they have some secret understating on Kashmir as well.
One gets the impression that India is indeed angry with Pakistan for internationalizing the Kashmir issue and refusing to accept the joint occupational reality as such. India is annoyed that its regular complaints to Washington against Pakistan has not worked in its favour.  It appears New Delhi wants Washington to cooperate with declaring Pakistan a terrorist nation.
Having failed to isolate Pakistan internationally by tactfully drawing USA to its side of story against Kashmir, Now India aims at isolating Pakistan in the region by taking a decision to bypass the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting to be held in Islamabad.
In what is seen by New Delhi’s anti-Pakistan strategists as another snub in the series to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided not to attend the SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad in November. Not just that; India has been pressurizing other regional countries also not to attend the summit so that Pakistan stands isolated.
PM Modi feels all efforts to impress the regional leaders during his swearing in ceremony have not made any impact on the regional leaders or internationally. He views Pakistan being the cause of his failure and hence the angry outburst.
 
Delhi prompted SAARC summit boycott
India announced that it was pulling out of the Islamabad summit after the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an Indian Army base in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 18 soldiers.  The attack came amid large-scale violence in Jammu and Kashmir that left around 90 people dead in the wake of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8. India said increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of Saarc member-states “by one country” have created an environment that was not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th Saarc summit.
As usual, India has quickly blamed Pakistan for a deadly assault on an army base in the disputed in Jammu Kashmir’s Uri town. Indian foreign ministry’s Vikas Swarup said India was pulling out from the SAARC summit scheduled in Islamabad in November due to present conditions.  Indian foreign ministry said it understood that some other SAARC members were apprehensive about attending, but it did not name them.
The decision to cancel Prime Minister Modi’s visit is the latest attempt by India to try to pressurize Pakistan diplomatically. India has said it will respond to the Kashmir attack but experts say it is short of military options because of the risk of escalation. Indian influence over a couple of its neighbours do work to its advantage Following the diplomatic blitzkrieg launched by New Delhi, India calculates that Pakistan would virtually be getting isolated in the region with Bangladesh and Bhutan joining India in boycotting the annual Saarc Summit scheduled to be hosted by Islamabad in November.
 
Dhaka joins the bandwagon
“The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by ‘one country’ has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th Saarc Summit in Islamabad,” sources quoted Bangladesh as saying in a message to current Saarc chair Nepal.  “Bangladesh, as the initiator of the Saarc process, remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere,” the message said. “In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed Summit in Islamabad.”
Bangladesh has been critical of Pakistan and said: “The growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th Saarc (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.” It added:
“Bangladesh, as the initiator of the Saarc process, remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in a more congenial atmosphere….In view of the above, Bangladesh is unable to participate in the proposed summit in Islamabad.”
Bhutan, in its message to Nepal, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the Saarc process and strengthening of regional cooperation, noted that “the concern of the Royal Government of Bhutan on the recent escalation of terrorism in the region, has seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016”, it is learned. Indian media says, the Royal Government of Bhutan shares the concerns of some of the member countries of Saarc on the deterioration of regional peace and security due to terrorism and joins them in conveying our inability to participate in the Saarc Summit, under the current circumstances.
 
‘No Saarc sans India’
Sri Lanka, it is learned, has said that the event would not be possible without India’s participation. Having close economic and military ties with Pakistan, both Nepal and Srilanka are not amenable to Indian demand to abstain from SAARC meet in Pakistan. Sri Lanka, it was learned, has said that the event would not be possible without India’s participation.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India has conveyed to Nepal its decision not to attend the summit, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to go. “India remains steadfast in its commitment to regional cooperation, connectivity and contacts but believes that these can only go forward in an atmosphere free of terror.
Pakistan, the host of SAARC summit, has termed the Indian boycott decision as “unfortunate”. The US has also said that it was pressurizing Pakistan to act against “terror” safe havens within its borders. “Well, I mean, clearly we’ve talked about that before, while we’ve seen Pakistan make progress on some of the terrorist groups operating within its own borders and carrying out attacks within Pakistan’s borders, that we continue to put pressure on Pakistan to respond to those groups who are, quote/unquote, ‘seeking safe haven on Pakistan’s borders’, that—who are intent on carrying out attacks elsewhere in the region,” US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said in the daily press briefing in Washington on Tuesday.
The USA is one of the nine observer members of Saarc, the others being Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar and South Korea. Toner said: “We want to see closer relations and a normalization of relations, frankly, between India and Pakistan.” “It would be the—to the benefit of the region. And we want to see de-escalation in the political discourse between the two countries and greater communication and coordination between them,” he said.
 
Blame game spreads
New Delhi had earlier blamed the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit for the September 18 as well as the January 2 Pathankot air base attack in Punjab. However, it came out later that attacks were “engineered” locally in order only to blame Pakistan so that it does not demand Kashmir which is under Indian occupation.
Meanwhile, as a routine matter, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit and made a demarche that proved Islamabad’s links to the attack.
Former Pakistani president general Musharraf (born in Delhi), speaking to Indian TV channels, questioned the rationale of just blaming Pakistan for all terror attacks taking place in India and even in USA.
Concerned about the water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over river Cauvery, Modi has said that India would revisit the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan that calls for sharing of the waters of the six rivers of the Indus basin with Pakistan while indicating that the most favoured nation (MFN) trade status granted to the neighbour in 1996 might be revoked.
Following the diplomatic blitzkrieg launched by New Delhi, Pakistan is virtually getting isolated in the region with Afghanistan, which gets regular funds for developmental and perhaps anti-Pakistani operations across the border, joining India in boycotting the annual Saarc Summit scheduled to be hosted by Islamabad in November. “Due to increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan, President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander in Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the summit,” sources quoted Kabul as saying in a message to Saarc chair Nepal.
 
Dr. Abdur Ruff, an educationist and author, columnist, an expert on Mideast affairs, Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); *Editor: international opinion,foreign policy; Palestine Times: website: http://abdulruff.wordpress.com/ email: abdulruff_jnu@yahoo.com; Phone: 91-7293435028

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Ban Ki-Moon’s Palestine legacy: Failure in words and deeds

Dr Ramzy Baroud
Countercurrents.org
 
Ban Ki-Moon’s second term as the Secretary General of the United Nations is ending this December. He was the most ideal man for the job as far as the United States and its allies are concerned. Of course, there will always be other Ban Ki-Moons. In fact, the man himself was a modified version of his predecessor, Kofi Annan.
The unspoken, but unmistakable rule about UN Secretary Generals is that they must come across as affable enough so as not to be the cause of international controversies, but also flexible enough to accommodate the US disproportionate influence over the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.
Full Story
Dr Ramzy Baroud
Countercurrents.org
 
Ban Ki-Moon’s second term as the Secretary General of the United Nations is ending this December. He was the most ideal man for the job as far as the United States and its allies are concerned. Of course, there will always be other Ban Ki-Moons. In fact, the man himself was a modified version of his predecessor, Kofi Annan.
The unspoken, but unmistakable rule about UN Secretary Generals is that they must come across as affable enough so as not to be the cause of international controversies, but also flexible enough to accommodate the US disproportionate influence over the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.
Dictation follower
At the end of their terms, the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of these Secretaries have been largely determined by their willingness to play by the aforementioned rule: Boutros Boutros-Ghali had his fallout with the US, as Kurt Waldheim also did. But both Annan and Ban learned their lessons well and followed the script to the end of their terms.
It would be utterly unfair to pin the blame for the UN’s unmitigated failure to solve world conflicts or obtain any real global achievement on a single individual. But Ban was particularly ‘good’ at this job.  It would be quite a challenge to produce another with his exact qualities.
His admonishment of Israel, for example, can come across as strong-worded and makes for a good media quote, yet his inaction to confront Israel’s illegal violations of numerous Resolutions passed by the very UN he headed, is unmatched.
Even his purportedly strong words of censure were often cleverly coded, which, ultimately, meant very little.
When Israel carried out its longest and most devastating war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, a large number of international law experts and civil society organizations signed a letter accusing the UN chief of failing to clearly condemn Israel’s unlawful action in the Occupied Territories, its targeting of civilian homes, and even the bombing of UN facilities, which killed and wounded hundreds The signatories included former UN Special Rapporteur, Richard Falk, who, along with the others, called on Ban to either stand for justice or resign. He did neither.
The signatories criticized him, specifically, about Israeli shelling of a school managed by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), in which ten civilians were killed.
In his ‘condemnation’ of the Israeli attack earlier, Ban even failed to mention Israel by name as the attacker, and called on ‘both parties’ to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and UN staff.
 
Misleading stand although
“Your statements have been either misleading, because they endorse and further Israeli false versions of facts, or contrary to the provisions established by international law and to the interests of its defenders, or because your words justify Israel’s violations and crimes,” they wrote.
And they were right. This is Ban Ki-Moon’s signature policy – his ability to sidestep having to criticize Israel so cleverly (and, of course, the US and others) when that criticism could have, when needed most, at least given a pause to those who violate international law at will.
Considering this, many have perceived Ban’s farewell speech at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly on September 15 as a departure from his old reserved self. It was understood that it was the end of his term, and he was ready to show some backbone, however belatedly.  Sadly, this was not the case.
“It pains me that this past decade has been lost to peace. Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness,” he surmised, as if both parties – the occupied and the military occupier – were equally responsible for the bloodshed and that Palestinians are equally blamed for their own military Occupation by Israel.
“This is madness,” he exclaimed. “Replacing a two-state solution with a one-state construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy towards greater global isolation.”
But again, no solid commitment either way. Who is ‘replacing a two-state solution?’ and why would a ‘one state reality’ – which incidentally happened to be the most humane and logical solution to the conflict – ‘spell doom’? And why is Ban so keen on the ethnic status of Israel’s ‘Jewish democracy’ vision, considering that it was Israel’s demographic obsession that pushed Palestinians to live under military Occupation or live under perpetual racial discrimination in Israel itself?
 
Ban collaborated with US/Israel
The fact is that there is more to Ban’s muddled language than a UN chief who is desperately trying to find the balance in his words, so that he may end his mission without registering any serious controversies, or raise the ire of Israel and the US.
(Incidentally, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, still ranted against the UN chief for calling Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements ‘illegal’ in his address. Other Israeli commentators raged against him for being a ‘liar’. Strange that even repeating old, irrefutable facts is still a cause of anger in Israel.)
Yet again, this is not the matter of the choice for words. A Wikileaks document from August 2014 is an excellent case in point.
According to the document released by WikiLeaks, Ban collaborated secretly with the US to undermine a report issued by the UN’s own Board of Inquiry’s report on Israeli bombing of UN schools in Gaza during the war of December 2008 – January 2009.
‘Collaborated’ is actually a soft reference to that event, where Susan Rice – then the White House National Security Adviser – called on him repeatedly to bury the report, not to bring it to the Council for discussion and, eventually, to remove the strongly-phrased recommendations of ‘deeper’ and ‘impartial’ investigations into the bombing of the UN facilities.
When Ban explained to Rice that he was constrained by the fact that the Board of Inquiry is an independent body, she told him to provide a cover letter that practically disowns the recommendations as ones that “exceeded the scope of the terms of reference and (that) no further action is needed.” Ban Ki-Moon obliged.
 
Palestinians won’t miss him
When the UN chief is gone, he will be missed – but certainly not by Palestinians in Gaza or refugees in Syria, or war victims in Afghanistan. But by the likes of Susan Rice, whose job was made very easy, when all she needed to do was merely instruct the chief of the largest international organization on earth to do exactly as she wished; and, for him, to gladly do so.
In his last visit to Palestine in June, Ban Ki-Moon told distraught Gazans that the “UN will always be with you.”
As tens of thousands there still stand on the rubble of their own homes, denied freedom to move or rebuild, Ban Ki-Moon’s statement is as forgettable as the man’s legacy at the United Nations.
 
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

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HRW asks Dhaka: Stop ‘kneecapping’ detainees
Abdur Rahman Khan
 
“Security forces in Bangladesh have long killed detainees in fake ‘crossfire killings,’ pretending the victim was killed when the authorities took him back to the scene of the crime and were attacked by one of his accomplices,” said Brad Asams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch in a statement. His statement was released on Wednesday.
Full Story
Abdur Rahman Khan
 
“Security forces in Bangladesh have long killed detainees in fake ‘crossfire killings,’ pretending the victim was killed when the authorities took him back to the scene of the crime and were attacked by one of his accomplices,” said Brad Asams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch in a statement. His statement was released on Wednesday.
The statement said: “Now they’re adopting tactics similar to those once used by the Irish Republican Army and engaging in ‘kneecappings’ of people they have arrested, apparently because they belong to or support an opposition party.”
The 45-page report entitled “No Right to Live’: ‘Kneecapping’ and Maiming of Detainees by Bangladesh Security Forces,” calls upon Bangladesh authorities to order prompt, impartial, and independent investigations into all alleged “kneecappings” and other deliberate infliction of serious injuries by members of the security forces. The government should also invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN special rapporteurs on torture and extrajudicial executions to investigate “kneecappings” and other alleged acts of torture and make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice, accountability, and security force reform.
The report includes evidence from 25 individuals, mostly members and supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami, who said that police shot them in the leg without provocation. Several of the victims are permanently disabled, including some who had their legs amputated after being shot. Many described being beaten before being shot.
Most victims were unwilling to be identified, fearing arbitrary arrest, disappearance, torture, or extrajudicial killing – abuses that are particularly against opposition party members. Others fear legal retribution, as almost all are facing criminal cases. In two cases involving members of the media, the victims were willing to be identified in the report. Mahbub Kabir, who worked in the marketing department of the pro-Jamaat daily Naya Diganta, was captured and shot in front of witnesses, but the police later filed criminal cases against him. According to Mahbub Kabir, the officer who shot him later threatened him, saying, “I have shot in your leg. If you speak out, then next time I will shoot in your eyes.”
Akram (pseudonym), a 32-year-old farmer, said that a police officer deliberately shot him in the leg after a raid in Chittagong: “After beating me for a few minutes, the police tied me to a tree. Then [a police officer] shot me above the knee in my left leg.” The officer, while denying the allegation, told a Bangladesh human rights organization that a dangerous criminal like Akram had “no right to live.” Admitting that he shot another criminal suspect in Chittagong a few months later during an alleged armed exchange, he acknowledged the culture of extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh, saying: “[The suspect] is still alive because he was arrested by the police. If the RAB [Rapid Action Battalion] or any other law enforcement agencies caught him, he would have been dead.”
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that she has ‘zero tolerance’ for extrajudicial killings or violence, but the fact that these abuses have only gotten worse since she came to power in 2009 makes it seem her government has infinite tolerance for state-sanctioned violence,” Adams said.
Human Rights Watch said that security officials are often under enormous pressure to prevent violence in demonstrations. However, they still have the responsibility to act within domestic and international law. Bangladesh is obliged to ensure that no one is subjected to torture, and that in the adjudication of a criminal charge, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing by a tribunal established by law, and presumed innocent until proven guilty. While Human Rights Watch is not in a position in every case to confirm or reject police claims that the victims were shot in self-defense or in crossfire during violent protests, all of the cases warrant rigorous, independent investigation and, as appropriate, criminal prosecution of the responsible police officers and commanders.
“Instead of issuing a knee-jerk denial of these claims, the government should ask the United Nations for expert assistance and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted,” said Adams. “Sheikh Hasina needs to make it clear that Bangladesh security forces cannot get away with killing and maiming citizens simply because they support the wrong political party.”

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