Philippines’ Duterte tells Muslims he will correct ‘historical injustice’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, wearing a military uniform, gestures as he delivers a speech during the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger regiment in San Miguel town, Bulacan province, north of Manila, Philippines on November 24, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 November 2017
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Philippines’ Duterte tells Muslims he will correct ‘historical injustice’

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to correct “historical injustice” in a speech to Filipino Muslim rebels on Monday as his government seeks to reignite a stalled peace process in the nation’s troubled south.
He made the remarks at a mammoth gathering hosted by the country’s main Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but which has also brought together Christians, rival Muslim factions and tribal groups from the southern region of Mindanao.
Since the 1970s, Muslims have been seeking autonomy or independence in the southern areas of the mainly Catholic Philippines that they regard as their ancestral homeland.
The conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives and left large areas of Mindanao in poverty.
Duterte, who boasts of having Muslim ancestry, warned that the region could see worse violence if the issue is not resolved.
“What is at stake here is the preservation of the Filipino republic and to correct historical injustice,” he said.
Duterte said that during the decades when the Philippines was under Spanish and then American colonial rule, the Christian majority had taken control of vast parts of Mindanao, leaving native Muslims and other tribes marginalized.
He also warned that the violence could be exacerbated if Islamic State followers flee to the Philippines after losing their bases in the Middle East.
Duterte’s warning came just a month after the foreign and local Daesh supporters who ravaged Mindanao’s main Muslim city Marawi were defeated in October, ending a five-month conflict which left about 1,100 people dead.
The 10,000-strong MILF signed a peace deal in 2014 that would give the nation’s Muslim minority self-rule over parts of Mindanao, but the proposed law to implement the pact has not managed to get through Congress.
The immediate objective of Monday’s rally was to build support for the proposed law.
Duterte said he would work for the law’s passage, even calling Congress to a special session where Muslim leaders could explain their plans to the legislators.
Such an agreement must be “inclusive” and acceptable to all groups in Mindanao, he added.
Speaking at the event, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim recalled that many of those attending had fought in the Muslim guerrilla wars in decades past.
But he said they are now pushing for the autonomy law, stating “it presents us the rare opportunity to be part of the noble endeavor of peace-making.”
Hundreds of thousands of people attended the gathering at the main MILF base where a festive mood prevailed despite the history of conflict.
The MILF previously said half a million had registered to attend.
Unarmed MILF fighters accompanied by armed government soldiers and policemen secured the event, which was attended by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo — the archbishop of Cotabato and Mindanao’s highest Catholic Church official — as well as members of the MILF’s main rival, the Moro National Liberation Front.
“The importance here is that there is coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Lumads (tribal people),” said Carlos Sol, director of the government’s coordinating committee overseeing the peace accord.


India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

  • Afghan, Indian leaders “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership”
  • The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

NEW DELHI: India and Afghanistan reviewed bilateral civil and military cooperation during a one day of meetings in  New Delhi on Wednesday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which the two sides “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership.”

A press release from the Indian Prime Minister’s office announced after the meeting: “It was agreed to deepen the New Development Partnership in the areas of high impact projects in this field of infrastructure, human resources development and other capacity-building projects in Afghanistan.” 

 The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

 “I would like to thank the Indian people for their commitment to Afghanistan's future,” Ghani said in a speech in New Delhi before leaving for Kabul.

“What India-Afghanistan share is deep and binding trust in democratic institutions,” he added.

Modi supported an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process” and pledged “India's unwavering commitment to support the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to this end, as also for the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan.”

 “Peace with the Taliban is important so that we can concentrate on counter-terrorism. The Taliban is part of Afghan society, ISIS (using another term for the terror group Daesh) is not. We must make that distinction,” Ghani said in his address at the New Delhi-based think tank, India Foundation.

 Commenting on Ghani’s visit, Vishal Chandra of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a New Delhi-based think tank, said: “The timing of the visit is significant; he has come at a time when the Afghan forces are under great pressure from the Taliban and Daesh.” He added that Ghani was looking for wider regional support in initiatives to stem the rising tide of terrorism.

Talking to Arab News, Chandra underlined that “there is no question of India involving itself militarily in Afghanistan, but it might step up its efforts to ensure that they have better air capability and they don’t have shortage of ammunition. I don’t expect India to supply heavy weaponry.”

Harsh V. Pant, director of the think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said: “Despite India scaling up its presence in the defence sector, New Delhi’s military presence in Afghanistan is limited.

“The appetite in India for military involvement is very small; there is no consensus about the military footprints New Delhi should have in Afghanistan. But there is a consensus that New Delhi’s security cooperation with Kabul should be extended and should be robust and that is what India is doing.” 

In his book “India’s Afghanistan Muddle” Pant argued that “India cannot evolve its equity in Afghanistan unless some form of military involvement happens.”

Pant told Arab News: “The visit of Ghani at this time is a sign of a certain maturity in the relationship where Afghanistan feels that India should be kept in a loop. The relationship has grown to an extent that two sides are comfortable with each other in sharing assessment about where the political trajectory is going.”