Modi visits Ladakh region

Modi met troops at a base in Ladakh’s Nimu area. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Modi visits Ladakh region

  • Modi has been under pressure to respond to what India deems Chinese incursions
  • Officials said Modi was accompanied by the chief of defense staff

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sniped at regional rival China, as he paid a surprise visit to the disputed Himalayan region of Ladakh which has seen violent clashes between both countries’ troops.
“The era of expansionism is over, this is the era of development,” Modi told Indian soldiers stationed in the Nimoo area of Ladakh, around 240 km from the Galwan Valley where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a fight with Chinese troops on June 15.
Without naming China, he added: “In the last century, examples are rife of countries that had adopted an expansionist attitude and threatened world peace but were eventually either destroyed or had to beat an ignominious retreat. The countries across the world were united against expansionism and oriented towards an age of development and open competition.”
Modi was saying that it was the Chinese expansionist mindset that was at fault and not some land, according to political analyst Harsh V. Pant from the Observer Research Foundation think tank.
“For the PM to go to Ladakh is a clear statement of intent that India is not going to buckle down and, as far as India is concerned it is not about boundary problems but it is Chinese expansionism which is at fault,” Pant told Arab News.
The Ladakh visit came a day after New Delhi announced a $5.8 million package for the purchase of new fighter aircraft, including 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKI, missiles and ammunition to boost the combat capabilities of its armed forces.
Tensions started building up in the disputed Himalayan region in the first week of May, when Indian troops blamed China’s military for hindering the usual patrolling at the Line of Actual Control along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.
Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure in the Fingers region around the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.
Amid this blame-game, both sides started the reinforcement of troops, leading to a military buildup.
The violence in the Galwan Valley on June 15 took place when both sides were supposedly negotiating de-escalation measures.
Political analysts viewed Modi’s Ladakh visit primarily as a morale-boosting gesture.
“Such a visit is needed at a time when the country is beleaguered,” Mohan Guruswamy, from the Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank, told Arab News.
He said that the Defence Ministry’s new purchase list should not be linked to the present tension as it was already in the pipeline.
“The situation cannot be normal unless China withdraws from the Indian territory. It is a big setback. Modi met Chinese leadership 18 times in the last six years. He invested lots of goodwill in the relationship.”
According to a former Indian Army brigadier, Ravi Malik, the two countries needed a policy change to improve relations.
“China will have to change its policy toward India and it is only then that the relationship between the two nations will regain momentum,” Malik told Arab News. “It is in our interests that the situation becomes normal otherwise we are suffering, like Pakistan. There is so much potential for peace and prosperity between the two nations but the rigidity in the policy comes in the way.”
Modi’s visit was also regarded as an attempt to regain the image of a strong leader, as India had suffered after the Chinese incursion.
“The visit of Modi to Ladakh serves two purposes. It demonstrates the government’s intent of securing the border, and at the same time it is an attempt to do political damage control,” the ORF’s Satish Mishra told Arab News.

Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government

This handout photo taken on June 2, 2018, shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he gives his departure speech at the Manila International airport. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2020

Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government

  • European lawmakers urge Filipino authorities to drop charges against acclaimed journalist, opposition senator

MANILA: Philippine human rights groups on Friday welcomed a European Parliament resolution denouncing extrajudicial killings and abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The document, adopted on Thursday, called for an “independent international investigation” into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016, when Duterte took office.

It urged EU member states to support the resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan described the resolution as a “welcome step toward reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The group also called on the international community to continue to stand with human rights defenders in the Philippines and the Filipino people “who suffer in this worsening crisis of political repression and state violence under this increasingly tyrannical regime.”

The European Parliament condemned extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which according to official figures has led to around 6,000 suspected drug offenders being killed by security forces. Rights groups, however, suggest the death toll may be much higher.

European lawmakers also urged Philippine authorities to renew the broadcast license of the country’s TV giant ABS-CBN and for charges to be dropped against acclaimed journalist and CEO of the Rappler news website, Maria Ressa, and detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima.

In addition, the European Parliament expressed “serious concern” over the new Anti-Terrorism Act enacted in July, which criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.”

It also granted the president power to create an anti-terrorism council that could tag individuals and groups as terrorists, allow authorities to make detentions without charge, and wiretapping.

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said she hoped the EU resolution would “enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines.”

She added: “The sham drug war has continued to kill the poor with impunity while human rights defenders face vilification, violence, and death for their work in exposing these human rights violations even in the middle of a pandemic (COVID-19).

“Domestic mechanisms have been ineffective and there has been outright failure in bringing the perpetrators of these gruesome crimes to justice. These attacks cannot continue, and the European Parliament’s resolution is a strong statement from the international community that there would be consequences for these abuses.”

EU lawmakers also called on the European Commission to suspend the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which provides tariff perks for Filipino goods, if there was no “substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities.”

In response to the resolution, Filipino Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said: “We are able to explain objectively the Philippines side on issues that are raised and we don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn,” adding that the scheme was helping the country address poverty.

The president’s office, Malacanang Palace, said in a statement that the government was in talks with the UN on a framework to support national efforts to “uphold the human rights-based approach in governance.”