Chinese navy ship docks in Sri Lanka, stokes worry in India

Chinese navy ship docks in Sri Lanka, stokes worry in India
China’s research and survey vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, arrives at Hambantota port. (AFP)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Chinese navy ship docks in Sri Lanka, stokes worry in India

Chinese navy ship docks in Sri Lanka, stokes worry in India
  • The Yuan Wang 5 sailed into the Hambantota port and was welcomed by Sri Lankan and Chinese officials in the morning

HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka: A Chinese navy vessel arrived at a Beijing-built port in southern Sri Lanka on Tuesday, after its port call was earlier delayed due to apparent security concerns raised by India.

The Yuan Wang 5 sailed into the Hambantota port and was welcomed by Sri Lankan and Chinese officials in the morning. The development could spark worry in India, which views China’s rising influence in the Indian Ocean with suspicion.

Sri Lanka has referred to the Yuan Wang 5 as a “scientific research ship,” but there are fears in India that the vessel could be used to surveil the region, with multiple media reports calling it a “dual-use spy ship.”

“The Yuan Wang 5 is a powerful tracking vessel whose significant aerial reach — reportedly around 750 km — means that several ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh could be on China’s radar,” the Indian Express newspaper wrote.

The keenly watched developments surrounding the vessel underscore the competing interest from regional giants India and China in the small island nation. For more than a decade, Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean and along one of the busiest shipping routes has seen both countries vie for influence.

Over the years, Beijing was widely seen as having an upper hand with its free-flowing loans and infrastructure investments. But Sri Lanka’s economic collapse proved an opportunity for India to gain greater sway, as New Delhi stepped in with massive financial and material assistance to its neighbor.

The ship has permission to dock in Hambantota until Aug. 22, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said last weekend. It added that China had agreed the ship would keep its identification systems on and would not carry out any research activities while in Sri Lanka waters.

“Given the geopolitical dynamics in the region and Sri Lanka’s heavy vulnerability on the economic front, Sri Lanka is playing with two fires at a diplomatic level,” said international affairs analyst Ranga Kalansooriya.

The Yuan Wang family of naval vessels serve both the Chinese missile force and the space program, which is run by the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party.

Previous official Chinese media reports have described PLA officers serving in command positions aboard the vessels in the Yuan Wang class, which may also have civilians in their crews.

China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed concerns about the ship in a briefing Monday.

“I would like to reiterate that the marine scientific research conducted by the research ship Yuan Wang 5 conforms to international law and international common practice, and will not affect the security and economic interests of any country,” he said.


Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
Updated 9 sec ago

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
MALANG: Indonesians gathered for Friday prayers mourned 131 people killed in a soccer stampede six days ago, amid calls for a prompt investigation into one of the world’s most deadly stadium disasters to enable its victims to rest in peace.
Most of those killed after the match in the town of Malang, in East Java province, died of asphyxiation, caught in a panicked crush as they tried to flee after police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse a rowdy crowd.
At Al Fatih Mosque near Malang an Islamic preacher led a tearful recital of tahlilan, or special prayers for the dead.
“Many of the supporters demand the case be immediately resolved so the souls of those who died can rest in peace,” said 53-year-old soccer fan Widodo after joining the prayer.
Widodo, who like many Indonesians uses one name, had been at Saturday’s match but left early fearing things could turn bad.
Police have named six suspects in an investigation into the stampede, including match organizers and three officers who were present.
The deadly incident has fueled accusations of heavy-handed policing in the soccer-mad Southeast Asian nation, with the use of tear gas inside the stadium — prohibited by world soccer body FIFA — widely criticized.
Messages and posters have been plastered on the stadium’s doors and walls, some demanding an end to “police brutality,” and Amnesty International Indonesia said on Friday that the tragedy “shows what can happen when excessive use of force by security forces is allowed to go on with impunity.”

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize
Updated 07 October 2022

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

OSLA: Jailed Belarusian activist Ales Byalyatski, Russian organization Memorial and Ukrainian group Center for Civil Liberties won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, highlighting the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” said Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen.
She called on Belarus to release Byalyatski from prison.
The prize will be seen by many as a condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is celebrating his 70th birthday on Friday, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, making it one of the most politically contentious in decades.
The award was not an anti-Putin prize, however, Reiss-Andersen said.
“We always give the prize for something and to something and not against someone,” she told reporters.
Belarusian security police in July last year raided offices and homes of lawyers and human rights activists, detaining Byalyatski and others in a new crackdown on opponents of Lukashenko.
Authorities had moved to shut down non-state media outlets and human right groups after mass protests the previous August against a presidential election the opposition said was rigged.
“The (Nobel) Committee is sending a message that political freedoms, human rights and active civil society are part of peace,” Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Reuters.
The prize will boost morale for Byalyatski and strengthen the hand of the Center for Civil Liberties, an independent Ukrainian human rights organization, which is also focused on fighting corruption, he said.
“Although Memorial has been closed in Russia, it lives on as an idea that it’s right to criticize power and that facts and history matter,” Smith added.
The award is recognition for the whole Belarusian people in standing up to Lukashenko, opposition spokesman Franak Viacorka said.
He told Reuters that Byalyatski was jailed in inhuman conditions and he hoped the prize, shared with Russian and Ukrainian human rights organizations, would lead to his release.
“That’s a huge sign of recognition for the Belarusian people, because the Belarusian people deserves it for their bravery in countering the tyranny of Lukashenko .... they deserve all the prizes in the world,” said Viacorka, chief of staff to exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who is a close friend of Byalyatski.
The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns, or about $900,000, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.
“The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation.
“They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”


UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup

UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup
Updated 07 October 2022

UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup

UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup
  • The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government last year

YANGON: More than one million people have been displaced in Myanmar since the military coup last year, the United Nations children’s agency has said.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government last year, sparking widespread armed resistance.
The junta has responded with a crackdown that rights groups say includes razing villages, mass extrajudicial killings and airstrikes on civilians.
Since the coup and as of last month, 1,017,000 people have been internally displaced, UNICEF said in a statement on Thursday.
It added that more than half of those forced to flee are in the country’s northwest Sagaing region, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting.
There were “significant challenges” to delivering humanitarian assistance in the region, UNICEF said.
Sagaing is crisscrossed by junta troops, pro-military militias and anti-coup fighters and where authorities regularly cut Internet access.
More than 12,000 civilian properties were thought to have been burned or destroyed across Myanmar since the coup, the UN humanitarian agency UNOCHA said in May.
Last month, at least 11 schoolchildren died in an airstrike and firing on a village in Sagaing, an attack the junta said targeted rebels hiding in the area.
Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis are moribund.
A “consensus” brokered last year by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aimed at facilitating dialogue between the military and its opponents and the delivery of humanitarian aid has been largely ignored by the junta.


Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’
Updated 07 October 2022

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’
  • Russia launched its ‘special military operation’ to demilitarize and ‘denazify’ its neighbor

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that remarks by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggesting NATO should launch preventive strikes on Russia confirmed the need for what it calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.
“By doing so, (he) essentially presented the world with further evidence of the threats posed by the Kyiv regime,” Lavrov said. “This is why a special military operation was launched to neutralize them.”
In a discussion with an Australian think tank on Thursday, Zelensky said he believed strikes were necessary to preclude any use of nuclear weapons.
He did not go into detail about what kind of strikes he meant, and made no reference to any need for nuclear strikes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced Zelensky’s comments as “an appeal to start yet another world war with unpredictable, monstrous consequences,” according to RIA news agency.
Russia launched its “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for invasion.


Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions
Updated 07 October 2022

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions
  • Last month, Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiated a cease-fire to end a flare-up of fighting that killed 155 soldiers from both sides

PRAGUE: The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia have held talks in Prague in efforts to ease tensions between the two longtime adversaries.
Armenia agreed to “facilitate a civilian EU mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan,” according to a joint statement released early Friday, following a meeting on the margins of a European summit in the presence of the EU Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Azerbaijan “agreed to cooperate with this mission as far as it is concerned,” the statement said.
Last month, Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiated a cease-fire to end a flare-up of fighting that killed 155 soldiers from both sides.
The EU mission will start in October for a maximum of two months, with the aim to “build confidence” and “contribute” to the border commissions that have been set earlier this year to address questions related to the delimitation of the border, the statement said.
The ex-Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
The move comes after the leaders of historic foes Turkey and Armenia on Thursday held their first face-to-face meeting since the two countries agreed to improve relations.
The discussions have been held on the sidelines of a summit by the leaders of 44 countries to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across Europe.