Southeast Asia boosts fight against ‘real and present’ militant threat

ASEAN defense ministers pose for a group photograph during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) security summit in Singapore on October 18, 2018. (AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN)
Updated 20 October 2018

Southeast Asia boosts fight against ‘real and present’ militant threat

  • The forum delegates agreed to share real-time intelligence that can immediately be acted upon
  • The weekend security meeting was attended by defense ministers of the 10-member ASEAN, as well as the US, China, Australia, India and Russia

SINGAPORE: Southeast Asian nations seeking to combat the threat of militancy have agreed to share intelligence, Singapore’s defense minister said Saturday, as he warned of a “real and present” danger to the region.
More than a year after Daesh-linked fighters seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi, the terrorist threat is as potent as ever, said Ng Eng Hen after hosting a meeting of defense ministers.
“Unfortunately even as the situation in Iraq and Syria improves, we are expecting more foreign fighters to come this way,” he added.
Ng said all 18 ministers at the gathering in Singapore, from Southeast Asia and key partners outside the region, viewed “terrorism as a real and present threat.”
The Southeast Asian delegates adopted an information-sharing platform called “Our Eyes” that will be used to share real-time intelligence that can immediately be acted upon, the minister added.
This came after the countries realized that they had underestimated the threat before the attack on Marawi, where the rebuilding effort could cost around $1 billion, he said.
Proposed by Indonesia, the platform is based on an intelligence-sharing alliance set up by the United States, Britain and three other countries after World War II to monitor the former Soviet Union.
The weekend security meeting was attended by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their counterparts from countries including China, Australia, India and Russia.
In last year’s assault on Marawi, hundreds of armed militants backed by foreign Daesh fighters attacked and took control of the largely Muslim city in a bid to establish a base in Southeast Asia.
Philippine troops, supported by sophisticated surveillance planes from the United States, dislodged the militants after five months of heavy fighting that left more than 1,000 people dead and the city in ruins.
Militants from other Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, were involved in the fighting.
Those at the meeting “felt that this must never happen again to any city within ASEAN,” Ng said.


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”