Indonesia looks for greater commerce with Saudi Arabia’s largest firms

Special Indonesia looks for greater commerce with Saudi Arabia’s largest firms
Indonesian and Saudi officials participate in the opening ceremony of the Indonesia-Saudi Arabia Business Forum in Jakarta on May 30, 2023. (Indonesian Ministry of Trade)
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Updated 31 May 2023
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Indonesia looks for greater commerce with Saudi Arabia’s largest firms

Indonesia looks for greater commerce with Saudi Arabia’s largest firms
  • Jakarta hosts Kingdom’s top private sector players at business forum
  • Asian nation seeks to boost bilateral ties and finalize GCC trade pact

JAKARTA: Indonesia is looking for greater commerce with big businesses in Saudi Arabia, its trade minister said on Tuesday, as Jakarta hosted a bilateral business forum.

Trade between the Southeast Asian nation and the Kingdom has been on the rise, increasing by about 45 percent to $7 billion, between January and November last year, compared to the same period in the previous year.

But the figures are still less than the aspirations of Indonesia — the biggest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — which is seeking a boost in trade ties with the Kingdom, and also a greater presence in the Middle East.

Indonesia’s Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan, who spoke at the inauguration of the Indonesia-Saudi Arabia Business Forum, said there was significant room for improvement.

“Indonesia has a population of nearly 280 million people, while the population of ASEAN is nearly 600 million people. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is a big country (and one of the) leading states in the Gulf region that has a population of nearly 400 million people. So, both countries have an enormous economic potential,” said Hasan.

Among the participants of the forum themed “Reinforcing Bilateral Cooperation Through Trade and Investment” were Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir and Saudi Ambassador Faisal Abdullah Al-Amoudi, as well as top Indonesian investment and commerce officials and leading representatives of the two nations’ private sectors.

“It is hoped that the meeting of large business actors from Indonesia and Saudi Arabia will improve trade relations in various fields, produce cooperation and can create something for the benefit of both countries, as well as increase investment to an even larger scale,” Hasan said.

Improving trade relations with Saudi Arabia would also help pave the way for better ties with other GCC countries, as Indonesia has been pushing for a trade pact with the bloc.

Earlier this year, the Indonesian trade minister led a special delegation to Riyadh to explore export potential between the two countries that are both members of the Group of 20, the world’s leading rich and developing nations.

“Saudi Arabia in this case is a priority because it is a strategic partner with the biggest economy in the Middle East,” Didi Sumedi, director-general of national export development at the Indonesian Ministry of Trade, told Arab News at the time.

“Trade potential between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia is very huge and very strategic,” he said, adding that it “has not been maximized.”

Indonesia’s main exports to Saudi Arabia include palm oil and its derivatives, vehicles, fish, iron and steel.

Its main imports from the Kingdom are oil and gas products, acrylics, ethylene polymers and sulfur.


Indian Parliament passes law that will reserve 33 percent of legislature seats for women from 2029

Indian Parliament passes law that will reserve 33 percent of legislature seats for women from 2029
Updated 8 sec ago
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Indian Parliament passes law that will reserve 33 percent of legislature seats for women from 2029

Indian Parliament passes law that will reserve 33 percent of legislature seats for women from 2029
  • Law ends 27-year impasse over the bill amid a lack of consensus among political parties
  • But the wait is still not over as the new law will not apply to next year’s national elections

NEW DELHI: India’s Parliament has approved landmark legislation that reserves 33 percent of the seats in its powerful lower house and in state legislatures for women to ensure more equal representation, ending a 27-year impasse over the bill amid a lack of consensus among political parties.
But the wait is still not over, as the new law will not apply to next year’s national elections.
It will be implemented in the 2029 national elections following a new census and adjustment of voting districts after next year’s polls, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said during a debate in the upper house of India’s Parliament on Thursday night.
The lower house of Parliament approved the legislation on Wednesday with a 454-2 vote, and the upper house passed it unanimously, 214-0, late Thursday.
India’s once-a-decade census was to be held in 2021 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All opposition parties supported the bill and said the delay in its implementation is an injustice to women. They demanded it apply to the next national elections, which are due to be held before May next year.
Under the legislation, the reservation of seats for women would continue for 15 years and could be extended by Parliament. Only women will be allowed to contest 33 percent of the seats in the elected lower house of Parliament and in state legislatures.
Home Minister Shah said four attempts by three governments since 1996 failed to enact the legislation.
Women comprise over 48 percent of India’s more than 1.4 billion people but have 15.1 percent representation in Parliament, compared to the international average of 24 percent, Law and Justice Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said. In India’s state legislatures, women hold about 10 percent of the seats.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress party have been trying to enact legislation in Parliament to bring about gender parity and inclusive governance since 1996. They faced opposition from regional parties, which argued that seats reserved for women would be cornered by the educated elite from urban areas, leaving poor and less educated women unrepresented.
But opposition to the bill waned over the years, “giving way to broader symbolic politics where it is crucial to being perceived as responsive to emerging constituencies — like women,” wrote the Indian Express newspaper.
India is a patriarchal society in which the social status of work done by women is often considered inferior to that done by men. Men also often enjoy greater rights than women.


Afghans who recently arrived in US get temporary legal status from Biden administration

Afghans who recently arrived in US get temporary legal status from Biden administration
Updated 44 sec ago
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Afghans who recently arrived in US get temporary legal status from Biden administration

Afghans who recently arrived in US get temporary legal status from Biden administration
WASHINGTON: The Biden administration said Thursday it was giving temporary legal status to Afghan migrants who have already been living in the country for a little over a year.
The Department of Homeland Security said in the announcement that the decision to give Temporary Protected Status to Afghans who arrived after March 15, 2022, and before Sept. 20, 2023, would affect roughly 14,600 Afghans.
This status doesn’t give affected Afghans a long-term right to stay in the country or a path to citizenship. It’s good until 2025, when it would have to be renewed again. But it does protect them from deportation and give them the ability to work in the country.
A relatively small number of people are affected. On Thursday the administration announced it was giving Temporary Protected Status to nearly 500,000 Venezuelans in the country.
But many Afghans who would benefit from the new protections took enormous risks in getting to the US, often after exhausting all other options to flee the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Supporters have argued that they are deserving of protection.
“Today’s decision is a clear recognition of the ongoing country conditions in Afghanistan, which have continued to deteriorate under Taliban rule,” Eskinder Negash, who heads the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said in a statement.
Separately, the Department also continued the protected status for a smaller group of Afghans — about 3,100 people. That group already had protection but the administration must regularly renew it.
The news Thursday would not affect tens of thousands of other Afghans who came to the country during the August 2021 American airlift out of Kabul or Afghans who have come over the years on special immigrant visas intended for people who worked closely with the US military or government.

Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing — official 

Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing — official 
Updated 4 min 24 sec ago
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Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing — official 

Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing — official 
  • Communications involved Indian officials and diplomats in Canada
  • Some intelligence given by member of “Five Eyes” intel-sharing alliance

TORONTO: The allegation of India’s involvement in the killing of a Sikh Canadian is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally, a Canadian official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The official said the communications involved Indian officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Canada.
The official did not say which ally provided intelligence or give specific details of what was contained in the communications or how they were obtained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first reported details of the intelligence.
Earlier Thursday, India stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens and told Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff as the rift widened between the once-close allies over Ottawa’s allegation that New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh separatist, in a Vancouver suburb in June.
Ties between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination.
Nijjar, a plumber who was born in India and became a Canadian citizen in 2007, had been wanted by India for years before he was gunned down outside the temple he led in the city of Surrey.
Speaking Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Trudeau acknowledged the complicated diplomatic situation he faces.
“The decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons was not done lightly,” he said. “There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with.”
“We are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.”
The bombshell allegation set off an international tit-for-tat, with each country expelling a diplomat. India called the allegations “absurd.”
Canada has yet to provide public evidence to back Trudeau’s allegations, and Canada’s UN ambassador, Bob Rae, indicated that might not come soon.
“This is very early days,” Rae told reporters Thursday, insisting that while facts will emerge, they must “come out in the course of the pursuit of justice.”
“That’s what we call the rule of law in Canada,” he said.
On Thursday, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada announced that visa services had been suspended until further notice.
The suspension means Canadians who don’t already have visas cannot travel to India. Canadians are among the top travelers to India: In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited the country, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi blamed the visa suspension, which includes visas issued in third countries, on safety issues.
“Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications,” Bagchi told reporters. He gave no details on the alleged threats.
The announcement quickly rippled across Canada, especially among people with ties to India.
Sukhwinder Dhillon, a 56-year-old grocery store owner in Montreal, said he had a trip planned to India to see family and sort out his deceased father’s estate. Dhillon, who came to Canada in 1998, said he makes the trip every two or three years and has lost two immediate family members since he was last home.
“My father passed, and my brother passed,” Dhillon said. “I want to go now. ... Now I don’t know when we’ll go.”
Bagchi, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman, also called for a reduction in Canadian diplomats in India, saying they outnumbered Indian diplomats in Canada. “We have informed the Canadian government that there should be parity” in staffing, he said.
The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said Thursday that its consulates in India are open and continue to serve clients. It said some of its diplomats had received threats on social media, prompting it to assess its “staff complement in India.” It added that Canada expects India to provide security for its diplomats and consular officers working there.
On Wednesday, India warned its citizens to be careful when traveling to Canada because of “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes.”
India’s security and intelligence branches have long been active in South Asia and are suspected in a number of killings in Pakistan. But arranging the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada, home to nearly 2 million people of Indian descent, would be unprecedented.
India has criticized Canada for years over giving free rein to Sikh separatists, including Nijjar. New Delhi had accused him of links to terrorism, which he denied.
Nijjar was a local leader in what remains of a once-strong movement to create an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan. A bloody Sikh insurgency shook north India in the 1970s and 1980s until it was crushed in a government crackdown in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent Sikh leaders.
While the active insurgency ended decades ago, the Indian government has warned that Sikh separatists are trying to stage a comeback and pressed countries like Canada, where Sikhs comprise over 2 percent of the population, to do more to stop them.
At the time of his killing, Nijjar was working to organize an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India.
New Delhi’s anxieties about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have long been a strain on the relationship, but the two have maintained strong defense and trade ties and share strategic interests over China’s global ambitions.
In March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government summoned the Canadian high commissioner in New Delhi, its top diplomat in the country, to complain about Sikh independence protests in Canada.
Signs of a broader diplomatic rift emerged at the summit of the Group of 20 leading world economies hosted by India earlier this month. Trudeau had frosty encounters with Modi, and a few days later Canada canceled a trade mission to India planned for the fall. A trade deal between the two is now on pause.
On Wednesday, India’s National Investigation Agency said it has intensified its crackdown on Sikh insurgents operating in India.
It announced rewards of up to 1 million rupees ($12,000) for information leading to the arrest of five insurgents, one of whom is believed to be based in neighboring Pakistan. It accused them of extorting money from businesses for a banned Sikh organization, the Babbar Khalsa International, and of targeted killings in India.


9/11 detainee tortured by CIA ruled unfit for trial: report

9/11 detainee tortured by CIA ruled unfit for trial: report
Updated 22 min 53 sec ago
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9/11 detainee tortured by CIA ruled unfit for trial: report

9/11 detainee tortured by CIA ruled unfit for trial: report
  • Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, 51, had been scheduled to be one of five defendants in a trial related to the September 11, 2001
  • Military judge said the prisoner was too psychologically damaged to help defend himself

WASHINGTON: A judge at the US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay on Thursday ruled that a Yemeni detainee who was tortured by the CIA is unfit to stand trial in a death-penalty case, US media reported.
Ramzi bin Al-Shibh, 51, had been scheduled to be one of five defendants in a trial related to the September 11, 2001, attacks on US cities by Al Qaeda that left almost 3,000 people dead.
But Col. Matthew McCall, a military judge, said the prisoner was too psychologically damaged to help defend himself, The New York Times reported.
Doctors at the US base on the eastern tip of Cuba diagnosed Bin Al-Shibh with post-traumatic stress disorder and secondary psychotic features, as well as a delusional disorder.
The military psychiatrists said his condition left him “unable to understand the nature of the proceedings against him or cooperate intelligently” with his legal defense team, the Times reported.
Bin Al-Shibh has for years complained of being “tormented by invisible forces that caused his bed and cell to vibrate and that stung his genitals, depriving him of sleep,” the paper added.
Bin Al-Shibh’s defense lawyer has claimed that his client was tortured by the CIA and went insane as a result of what the agency called enhanced interrogation techniques, that included sleep deprivation, waterboarding and beatings.
He had been due to face pretrial proceedings on Friday with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and three other defendants. Their hearing will proceed as scheduled, the paper said.
Bin Al-Shibh was accused of helping organize the Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, that hijacked one of two passenger jets that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
Another suicide airliner attack targeted the Pentagon in Washington, and a fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania when passengers overpowered the hijackers.


Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Canada on unannounced visit

Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Canada on unannounced visit
Updated 32 min 18 sec ago
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Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Canada on unannounced visit

Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Canada on unannounced visit
  • Canada is home to a large Ukrainian community and Trudeau’s government has pledged firm and lasting support for Ukraine

OTTAWA: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Canada Thursday night from the United States on an unannounced visit to rally support for his country as it fights the Russian invasion.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted Zelensky as he stepped off his plane in Ottawa, as seen on Canadian TV, traveling from Washington for his first visit here since the war started in February 2022.
In Washington, Zelensky met with President Joe Biden and leaders of Congress.
Canada is home to a large Ukrainian community and Trudeau’s government has pledged firm and lasting support for Ukraine as it battles Russian forces.
On Friday, Zelensky will hold formal talks with Trudeau and give a speech to the Canadian parliament.
He and Trudeau will also travel to Toronto to meet with business leaders and members of the community of Canadians of Ukrainian origin.