Reluctant to condemn Russia, India faces Western pressure ahead of Lavrov visit

Special Reluctant to condemn Russia, India faces Western pressure ahead of Lavrov visit
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 April 2022

Reluctant to condemn Russia, India faces Western pressure ahead of Lavrov visit

Reluctant to condemn Russia, India faces Western pressure ahead of Lavrov visit
  • India has abstained from UN resolutions censuring Russia over its invasion of Ukraine
  • New Delhi’s ties with Moscow span over seven decades, with half of India’s military hardware sourced from Russia

NEW DELHI: Reluctant to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, India has been facing mounting Western pressure ahead of the visit of Moscow’s top diplomat on Thursday, in what analysts say is complicating New Delhi’s middle path among the world’s powers.

India has abstained from UN resolutions censuring Russia, its longtime ally, who began a multipronged assault on Ukrainian territory in late February, calling only for a cessation of violence, as it continues to buy Russian oil and other goods amid international sanctions.

Western envoys, including US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh and Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, have flown into New Delhi this week prior to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to pull India off the fence and press for tougher action.

Lavrov’s trip is likely aimed at urging New Delhi to do the exact opposite.

“India is having to navigate a very difficult relationship from both sides. India has strong ties with Russia historically and of course in recent years ties with the West,” Prof. Harsh V. Pant, head of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told Arab News.

New Delhi’s ties with Moscow span over seven decades, with half of India’s military hardware being sourced from Russia. On the other hand, its partnership with the West has been growing for the last 20 years, and it is a member of the Quad, a four-state strategic security dialogue — comprising also the US, Japan and Australia — that was established in the face of increased Chinese economic and military power, which poses a threat to its regional position. This threat has been heightened to extreme levels since the 2020 border clashes.

Tensions on the India-China border in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh that broke out in April 2020 have led to a deterioration in relations between the two Asian giants and the deployment of tens of thousands of extra troops to the region.

“At a time when India is facing Chinese soldiers along the border, you really cannot antagonize a partner on which you are dependent for 55 percent of your defense imports,” Harsh said.

“Russia continues to be a very reliable supplier of defense technology in defense equipment which is not something that the West has been best at.”

He said that while the West’s approach to Russia has been one of isolation and sanctions, it is not what India could do.

“India cannot really take a similar position because India does not want the Russia-China axis to go even stronger,” Harsh added. “I think the challenge for India is to have a channel of communication open with Russia, even at the most difficult of times.”

Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said that Russia’s historical support for India, especially in its conflicts with arch-rival and neighbor Pakistan, also plays a major role in New Delhi’s reluctance to condemn Moscow.

“Since the 1950s, the Russians have generally backed India on South Asia policies,” he said. “There is a lot of congruence, political congruence which goes back a long time. And in turn, the Indians were soft on the Russians for their invasion of Hungary in 1956, or the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. So, there has been this kind of a relationship.”

But besides the Western pressure on India to take sides, there may also be another dimension to the visits of its envoys.

Anil Trigunayat, India’s former ambassador to Jordan, Libya and Malta, described the recent developments as possible attempts to have New Delhi play a role in ending the Ukraine crisis.

“They are trying to now somehow stop this conflict but, in my view, they are not becoming the direct agents for stopping it,” he said, adding the West knows that India has a strategic relationship with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.

“What they want to tell is that India should try to use its personal clout, which we have with Russia and with President Putin, to expedite the closure as soon as possible,” Trigunayat told Arab News. “They know that if India condemns (Moscow), they will have no leverage over Russia.”
 


155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona
Updated 24 min 10 sec ago

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

MADRID: More than 150 people were lightly injured Wednesday when a train ran into the back of another at a station near Barcelona, the emergency services and Spain’s Renfe rail operator said Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the SEM regional emergency services said the vast majority of those hurt in the collision which occurred just before 8:00 am (0700 GMT) sustained light injuries, while five were in moderate condition.
“There was a collision between two trains at 7:50 am at the Montcada i Reixac-Manresa station, on the line heading to Barcelona, that’s to say one train ran into the back of another,” a spokesman for the state rail operator told AFP.
Rail traffic along the line was suspended in both directions and Renfe had opened an investigation into what happened, he said.
“There were 155 people affected of which 150 were lightly injured and five who were moderately hurt,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
She said 18 medical units had been deployed to the area, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Barcelona.


Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
Updated 07 December 2022

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

FRANKFURT: German police launched nationwide raids on Wednesday and made 25 arrests against members of a far-right “terror group” suspected of planning an attack on parliament, federal prosecutors said.
Individuals belonging to the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement are suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Raids were conducted across 11 German federal states, added prosecutors.
The suspected arrested are part of a terrorist group whose goal is to overthrow the existing state order in Germany and replace it with their own, and do not exclude violence against the state as a means of achieving the goal, said prosecutors.
Suspects were arrested in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony, Thuringia as well as in Austria and Italy.
The suspects are accused of preparing, since the end of November 2021 at the latest, to carry out actions based on their ideology.


‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief
Updated 07 December 2022

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief
  • “As you can also see Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives,” said Trudeau in response

MONTREAL: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday slammed multinational corporations for turning the world’s ecosystems into “playthings of profit” and warned failure to correct course would lead to catastrophic results.
“With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,” he said, in a speech ahead of biodiversity talks in Montreal.
Since taking office in 2017, Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, has made climate change his signature issue.
His fiery denunciations at the ceremonial opening of the conference, known as COP15, revealed the plight of the planet’s endangered plants and animals — an interconnected crisis — are equally close to his heart.
Before he took the dais, a group of around half a dozen Indigenous protesters interrupted a speech by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is co-hosting the event with China.
They waved a banner that read “Indigenous genocide = Ecocide” and “To save biodiversity stop invading our land,” and chanted for a few minutes before they were escorted out, to a smattering of applause.
“As you can also see Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives,” said Trudeau in response.
The meeting is not to be confused with another set of UN talks earlier this month, which were on climate and called COP27.

Nearly 200 countries have gathered for the December 7-19 meeting in an effort to hammer out a “Paris moment” for nature.
The challenges are daunting: one million species are at risk of extinction; one-third of all land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost; while pollution and climate change are accelerating degradation of the oceans.
Chemicals, plastics and air pollution are choking land, water and air, while planetary heating brought about by burning fossil fuels are causing climate chaos — from heatwaves and forest fires to droughts and floods.
“We are treating nature like a toilet,” Guterres said bluntly.
“And ultimately, we are committing suicide by proxy” he added — with the impacts felt on jobs, hunger, disease and death.
Economic losses from ecosystem degradation, meanwhile, are estimated to stand at $3 trillion annually from 2030.
Ahead of the talks, AFP spoke to Elizabeth Mrema, the head of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who said failure was not an option.
“For the Paris agreement to succeed, biodiversity also has to succeed. For climate to succeed, nature has to succeed, and that’s why we have to deal with them together,” she said.
Draft targets for the 10-year framework include a cornerstone pledge to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030, eliminating harmful fishing and agriculture subsidies, tackling invasive species and reducing pesticides.
The new goal will rely heavily on the involvement of Indigenous peoples, who steward land that is home to around 80 percent of Earth’s remaining biodiversity.
Divisions have already emerged on the key issue of financing, with wealthy countries under pressure to funnel more money to developing nations for conservation.
Hopes have already been tempered by the absence of world leaders: Canada’s Trudeau will be the only in attendance.
COP15 is currently chaired by China, but it is not hosting the meeting because of the Covid pandemic.

 


Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York

Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York
Updated 07 December 2022

Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York

Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York
  • Trump and his three eldest children face a trial late next year in a civil lawsuit by New York’s attorney general that accuses them of misstating the value of properties to enrich themselves

NEW YORK: Donald Trump’s family business was found guilty of tax fraud by a New York jury Tuesday, dealing a blow to the ex-president as he eyes the White House again.
The Trump Organization and separate entity the Trump Payroll Corp. were found guilty on all counts, marking the first time the companies had ever been convicted of crimes.
“This was a case about greed and cheating,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who prosecuted the case.
Trump himself was not charged but the fact the sprawling real-estate, hotel and golf business that bears his name is now a convicted felon is likely to inflict damage to his reputation as he seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024.
The two entities were convicted of running a 13-year-scheme to defraud and evade taxes by falsifying business records. In all, they were found guilty on 17 counts.
Jurors agreed with prosecutors that the Trump Organization — currently run by Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump — hid compensation it paid to top executives between 2005 and 2021.
Longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, had already pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud, and testified against his former company as part of a plea bargain. He did not implicate Trump during the trial.
A close friend of the Trump family, the 75-year-old Weisselberg admitted he schemed with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh Manhattan neighborhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.
According to his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties and complete a five-month prison sentence in exchange for testimony during the trial, which started in October.
Trump, posting on his social media platform, said the Trump Organization bore no responsibility for “Weisselberg committing tax fraud on his personal tax returns.”
Under the headline “Manhattan Witch Hunt!” Trump said no benefit accrued to the company from Weisselberg’s actions, and that neither he nor any employees were “allowed to legally view” the CFO’s returns.
Trump said he was “disappointed with the verdict” and will appeal.

Trump’s company faces a fine of around $1.5 million, a paltry sum to the billionaire real estate developer.
It’s symbolic though as he battles a host of legal and congressional probes that will likely complicate his run for a second presidential term, announced in Florida last month.
Trump and his three eldest children face a trial late next year in a civil lawsuit by New York’s attorney general that accuses them of misstating the value of properties to enrich themselves.
Prosecutor Letitia James has requested that Trump pay at least $250 million in penalties — a sum she says he made from the fraud — and that his family be banned from running businesses in the state.
James, a Democrat, hailed Tuesday’s verdict.
“We can have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that violate our laws to line their pockets,” she said.
Trump has been ordered to testify in April 2023 as part of a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her in the 1990s.
He is also facing legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
 

 


India, Central Asian countries discuss concerns over ‘terrorist acts’ in Afghanistan

Ajit Doval. (AFP)
Ajit Doval. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2022

India, Central Asian countries discuss concerns over ‘terrorist acts’ in Afghanistan

Ajit Doval. (AFP)
  • Security chiefs say ‘collective response’ essential
  • Afghanistan an ‘important issue,’ India’s national security adviser says

NEW DELHI: India and four Central Asian nations said on Tuesday that Afghanistan should not be used for “any terrorist acts," following an inaugural security meeting focused on countering terrorism and maintaining stability in the region.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval hosted his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in New Delhi, which followed an India-Central Asia leadership summit led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January.

Afghanistan was top of the agenda on Tuesday — similar to the summit focus earlier this year — as officials raised concerns about the developing situation in the crisis-torn nation.

“Afghanistan is an important issue concerning us all,” Doval said. “We meet at a time when great churns in international relations and uncertainty about the future.”

India has no diplomatic ties with Afghanistan and closed its embassy in Kabul in August last year after US-led forces left the country and the Taliban took over.

New Delhi had spent billions of dollars on infrastructure and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan after the previous Taliban regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001.

A joint declaration issued after Tuesday’s talks “emphasized that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing any terrorist acts.”

India and the Central Asian countries, which in this meeting had not included Turkmenistan, also pointed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and called for action to provide humanitarian assistance for its people.

Their security chiefs also discussed connectivity to enhance trade and improve closer interaction. In addition, a “collective and coordinated response” to address the issue of “terrorist propaganda, recruitment and fundraising efforts” was essential, the statement reads.

The United Nations said last month that organized crime and terrorist organizations “are thriving once again” in Afghanistan. There have been several high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months claimed by the regional branch of Daesh, including a suicide blast outside the Russian embassy in September and an attack on the Pakistan embassy last week.

The regional meeting was an opportunity for India to “work together and engage” with the Central Asian nations to ensure that “sources of financing groups are curtailed and that “the Taliban government in Kabul is under pressure to perform on this issue,” Harsh V. Pant, head of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told Arab News.

“What is happening in Afghanistan and the persistence of terrorism, terror groups there pose a long-term challenge to the region and India therefore is trying to work out modus vivendi for Central Asian countries to see if a common policy response can be initiated.”