India, Sri Lanka strengthen trade, security ties

India, Sri Lanka strengthen trade, security ties
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India’s National Security Adviser concluded a visit to Colombo after “fruitful discussions” with President Rajapaksa. (@GotabayaR)
India, Sri Lanka strengthen trade, security ties
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India’s National Security Adviser concluded a visit to Colombo after “fruitful discussions” with President Rajapaksa. (@GotabayaR)
India, Sri Lanka strengthen trade, security ties
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India’s National Security Adviser concluded a visit to Colombo after “fruitful discussions” with President Rajapaksa. (@GotabayaR)
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Updated 29 November 2020

India, Sri Lanka strengthen trade, security ties

India, Sri Lanka strengthen trade, security ties
  • Colombo trilateral forum ends with pledge to improve intel sharing
  • Bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $4.59 billion in 2019

COLOMBO: India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval concluded a three-day visit to Colombo on Sunday after “fruitful discussions” with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on trade, new investments and security amid plans to bolster bilateral ties with the island nation.
“Had a fruitful discussion with Shri @Ajitdovalkumar, NSA #India this evening. National Sec, Sec in the Indian Ocean, new Indian investments, continuation of infrastructure proj. & strengthening bilateral relations between #SriLanka & #India were the areas discussed at the meeting,” Rajapaksa tweeted.
In a separate tweet after the meeting, the High Commission of India in Colombo acknowledged the “productive discussion” between the two officials.
“NSA Ajit Doval called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa & had a productive discussion. NSA Doval expressed hope that the India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship would diversify and deepen further under the strong leadership of PM @narendramodi and President @GotabayaR @MEAIndia,” it said.
As one of Sri Lanka’s closest neighbors, India is among its top investors with cumulative investments amounting to more than $1.2 billion since 2003. 
According to the Indian Board of Investment, bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $4.59 billion in 2019.
Sri Lankan tourists are among the top 10 sources of revenue for India’s tourism sector, with more than 107,360 tourist visas issued by the High Commission of India in Colombo last year. However, tourism has suffered a setback since the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent global travel ban in March.
Doval took part in a trilateral forum with Maldivian Defense Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi and Kamal Gunaratne, Sri Lanka’s defense secretary, on Saturday, with officials from Mauritius and Seychelles attending virtually.
In a joint statement after the meeting, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense said that the 4th National Security Adviser-level trilateral Maritime Security Cooperation meeting had been revived after a six-year gap to expand the scope of intelligence sharing, including terrorism and cybersecurity, based on “common security threats.”
The first meeting was held in 2011 and, later, in New Delhi in 2014.
“We were able to resolve several maritime problems, such as human trafficking, drug trafficking and general security,” Brig. Chandana Wickremesinghe, a ministry spokesperson, told Arab News.
Current observers Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles “will become permanent members soon,” he added.
“The Indian Ocean commands 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, has 80 percent of the world’s shipborne energy transport, and facilitates 46 percent of the world’s merchandise trade — maritime security remains one of our highest priorities,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said during his opening address at the forum.
The three countries also agreed to improve intelligence sharing and “focus on issues such as terrorism, radicalization, extremism, drugs, arms and human trafficking, money laundering, cybersecurity and climate change,” the statement said.
Muheed Jeeran, a lobbyist, told Arab News that the forum took place at the “right time” when other countries “were looking for a berth in the Indian Ocean.”
“The representatives of the three countries would have chalked out the preventive measures that could be adopted in case of a third-party interference,” Jeeran said.
Regional security “will lead to peace in the Indian Ocean,” he added.


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle
Updated 16 January 2021

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”