UAE contingent takes part in R-Day parade

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee during the 68th Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2017
0

UAE contingent takes part in R-Day parade

NEW DELHI: Motorbike stunt riders and herds of camels wowed the crowds gathered in New Delhi Thursday to celebrate Republic Day, an annual showcase of India’s military hardware and cultural diversity.
After the US and French presidents attended the last two events, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, was this year’s chief guest as everyone from bagpipe-playing troops to schoolchildren paraded along the landmark Rajpath boulevard.
The day marks the adoption of the country’s constitution on Jan. 26, 1950 following independence from Britain in 1947.
The nearly 100-minute parade displayed India’s latest weaponry, including missiles and Indian-manufactured radar systems, along with elaborate floats representing the country’s different states and union territories.
A contingent of border guards rode into town on camels, wearing colorful caparisons fitted with round mirror pieces, and were greeted with loud cheers from spectators.
The arrival of the camels followed a show by stuntmen from military units, some of whom balanced themselves precariously on ladders on the back of moving motorbikes.
A military contingent from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) led the march down Janpath and the parade concluded with a fly-past by Indian fighter jets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wore a pink turban and was seen chatting with guests inside a bullet-proof enclosure.
Al-Nahyan is the second Arab leader to attend the function after late Saudi King Abdullah, as India eyes financial investments and energy security from the region.
More than 50,000 security personnel were deployed in the capital to prevent any possible attack.
In his televised Republic Day speech on Wednesday night, President Pranab Mukherjee said India’s strength lay in its religious and cultural diversity.
Critics say India is witnessing an increasingly strident brand of Hindu nationalism since Modi came to power in 2014.
“More than the unison of ideas, a healthy democracy calls for conformity to the values of tolerance, patience and respect for others,” said Mukherjee, a member of the main opposition Congress Party and whose position is largely ceremonial.
“Our tradition has always celebrated the argumentative Indian not the intolerant Indian.”


Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

Updated 34 min 57 sec ago
0

Japan’s Okinawa votes on controversial US base move

  • Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote
  • Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership

OKINAWA: Residents of Japan’s Okinawa were casting ballots Sunday in a closely watched referendum on the controversial relocation of a US military base to a remote part of the island.
The vote is seen as highly symbolic but is also non-binding, raising questions about what effect it will have, even if opponents of the move, including Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, prevail.
The ballot asks residents whether they support a plan to reclaim land at a remote coastal site for the relocation of the Futenma base from its current location in a heavily-populated part of Okinawa.
It was initially planned as a yes-no vote on the move, but a “neither” option was added after several cities with close ties to the central government threatened to boycott the vote.
Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote. The Jiji Press agency reported around 20.5 percent of eligible voters had already cast ballots in early voting by Saturday.
“They are using a lot of tax money and manpower for this referendum, even though the result will not have any legal power. So, we thought that we should take this opportunity and think very carefully about this issue,” said Yuki Miyagaki, after casting her ballot at a local school.
“We usually shout no to the new base construction. This is a good opportunity to tell the government directly with concrete numbers: ‘No’. This is an important vote,” 32-year-old Narumi Haine said.
Although the referendum is not legally binding, “it is significant that people in Okinawa can express their will through the vote,” said Jun Shimabukuro, a professor at Ryukyu University in Okinawa.
“It can be a test to gauge if democracy is working in Japan,” Shimabukuro said before voting opened.
The relocation of Futenma to Nago, 50 kilometers away, was first agreed in 1996 as the US sought to calm local anger after US servicemen gang raped a local schoolgirl.
But the plan has long been stalled in part over local opposition.
The Futenma base has stoked tension with local residents over problems ranging from noise and military accidents to crime involving base residents.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government says the relocation will address those concerns, but many in Okinawa want the base relocated elsewhere in Japan.
They argue that the region bears a disproportionate burden when it comes to hosting US military troops in the country.
Okinawa accounts for less than one percent of Japan’s total land area, but hosts more than half of the approximately 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.
Anti-base rallies have been staged daily in Okinawa since campaigning for the referendum began in mid-February.
But the vote has not stopped reclamation work at Nago, with construction workers continuing to shovel dirt into the ocean offshore with bulldozers.
“We hope the referendum will boost the momentum of our fight,” demonstrator Masaru Shiroma told AFP on Friday, as more than 100 fellow activists tried to block trucks entering the construction site on Friday.
“The government is making a fool out of Okinawa.”
The ballot closes at 8:00P.M. with exit polls expected soon after and official results from as early as midnight.
Okinawa’s governor is required to “respect” the vote’s outcome if at least a quarter of eligible voters — around 290,000 votes — vote for any one option.
Tamaki has urged residents to turn out and cast their “precious votes” in the poll.
An opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper this week found 59 percent of people in Okinawa oppose the reclamation while 16 percent support it.
The survey also found 80 percent of respondents want Abe’s government to respect the results.
But there has been little sign Abe’s government will shift course if the vote goes against the move, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying there were no plans to halt the relocation regardless of the outcome.
Japan’s military alliance with the United States is seen as a key partnership, and Okinawa’s location near Taiwan has long been viewed as having huge strategic importance for US forward positioning in Asia.