Don’t pander to China, Pompeo tells Malaysia PM

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from right, shakes hands with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad during a meeting at Prime Minister Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Malaysia Information Ministry via AP)
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In this photo released by Malaysia Information Ministry, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from right, shakes hands with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad during a meeting at Prime Minister Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Malaysia Information Ministry via AP)
Updated 03 August 2018

Don’t pander to China, Pompeo tells Malaysia PM

  • Mahathir is widely seen as the region’s senior statesman.
  • The US government had been close to the previous Najib Razak government.

KUALA LUMPUR: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended his two-day visit to Malaysia on Friday after meetings with the Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir to promote Trump’s Indo-Pacific vision and discuss regional issues, including the rise of China.
Pompeo will head to Singapore for ASEAN regional meetings.
The secretary of state’s visit was the first from the US government since a new government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) was formed last May.
The visit is seen as a move by the US government to rekindle its relations with Malaysia under the new leadership.
Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at Tasmania University in Australia, told Arab News that it is normal for the US to visit any new administration. In Malaysia’s case, Mahathir is widely seen as the region’s senior statesman.
Dr. Felix Tan, associate lecturer with SIM Global Education, said that the visit demonstrated the US commitment to the new PH government.
“This will boost the PH’s government in the years ahead,” he said.
Pompeo’s visit has also showcased a more mellow and experienced Mahathir, whose was known for his firebrand leadership during his time as prime minister a few decades ago.
“Dr. M. seems ready to have a cordial relationship with the US, one that is less acrimonious than when he previously served as prime minister,” Dr. Ian Chong, Associate Professor of Political Science at National University of Singapore, said.
“Washington wants to show that it is interested in Malaysia, its process of democratization, and that there is no need to pander to China.”
However, Chin said: “Mahathir is not pro-Trump. He has said many times that he has no idea how to deal with Trump since Trump is so unpredictable.”
The US government had been close to the previous Najib Razak government, currently embroiled in the 1MDB billion-dollar corruption scandal.
Pompeo and Mahathir discussed issues affecting the region, including China’s rise and tension in the South China Sea.
While the Philippines and Vietnam have been vocal on their respective claimed territories in the South China Sea, Malaysia has remained neutral regarding the conflict.
With China’s rise, the US presence is seen as a balancing act in the region that has become a test of power between the two economic giants.
Following on from Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” vision, Trump’s Indo-Pacific vision aims to promote “transparent, private sector-led investment.”
However, US officials claimed the strategy does not compete directly with China’s vast “Belt and Road” initiative.
“Both policies are to contain China and China’s rise,” said Chin, adding that the US wants to ensure Malaysia remains neutral on China and South China Sea.
“The Indo-Pacific vision is far less institutionalized than the Obama administration’s rebalance. It is also more vague and focuses more on major powers rather than the range of actors present in Asia,” Chong said.
“The US is sending the message that it will not abandon its Southeast Asian allies,” said Tan.
“China is a growing superpower and its economic dominance in this region is growing. I don’t think the impact of such visits will be great.”


India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago

India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

  • Experts claim lockdown measures have failed as death toll passes 4,000 mark

NEW DELHI: India on Monday climbed into the top 10 countries worst-hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with the number of deaths passing the 4,000 mark.

Sunday saw the highest one-day surge in cases with 6,634 new infections reported, taking the current total to 140,215, slightly ahead of Iran.

The deadly COVID-19 outbreak has now claimed the lives of 4,041 people in India.

Monday’s milestone figures coincided with the resumption of domestic flight services which experts claimed was an indication of the failure of the two-month-long nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

“The lockdown was meant to contain the cases but even after 60 days cases are rising, which means the lockdown was not properly planned and executed,” said virologist Prof. T. Jacob John, of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Harjit Singh Bhatti, of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said: “The government understands that it has failed in its lockdown plan. They could not anticipate the problems and the crisis it would engender. As a result, the government has no other option but to resume the economy. For the government now the focus is livelihood not the life.”

However, the Indian government disputed the claims saying the lockdown had helped to tackle the virus.

“If the doubling rate in India before the lockdown was between three to four days, today the doubling rate is more than 13 days. Lockdown and all its guidelines have acted as a potent social vaccine,” said India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

“Lockdown was imposed in India at the right time. Other developed countries wasted many days to take this decision,” he added.

On March 25, India started the first phase of its nationwide lockdown and the country is now into the fourth phase of the shutdown, which ends on May 31. Two months ago, India had only recorded 550 COVID-19 cases.

The western state of Maharashtra is one of the worst-affected in India with close to 60,000 cases and about 2,000 deaths. Mumbai, its financial capital, has registered more than 30,000 cases alone with at least 1,000 fatalities, forcing local authorities to procure 80 percent of private-hospital beds in the metropolis to deal with the crisis.

“The cases in Mumbai are increasing every day and health workers across the city are working overtime to deal with the situation,” Dr. Shariva Randive, of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), told Arab News.

Pune-based Dr. Avinash Bhonde, of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said: “A central team of doctors said a couple of months ago that Mumbai alone would witness more than 150,000 cases but in the whole of Maharashtra the total number is around 60,000, so it is less than what we expected.”

He added that there had been gaps in handling the lockdown. “Had there been micro planning and some corrective steps taken in the middle of the lockdown we could have been in a better situation.”

The length of the lockdown left millions of daily wage workers in big cities jobless and homeless. With no economic incentives or alternative plans put in place for them by the government, and no transport, many walked back to their villages, sometimes up to 800 km from their place of work.

To deal with the unprecedented situation the government, from the first week of May, started running special trains to carry more than 3 million people to the eastern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

On May 10, Bihar had recorded 700 cases of COVID-19, but on Sunday the number was more than 2,600. The state has set up an estimated 14,000 quarantine centers to house thousands of people returning from virus hotbeds such as Maharashtra and Delhi.

“Bihar’s coronavirus cases may be lower than other states right now, but the way it is growing it is alarming and the state might face a huge problem,” a health official in the Bihar government told Arab News.