Maldives signs China defense deal as India prepares exit

Maldives signs China defense deal as India prepares exit
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 10, 2024. (REUTERS)
Short Url
Updated 05 March 2024
Follow

Maldives signs China defense deal as India prepares exit

Maldives signs China defense deal as India prepares exit
  • Maldives pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu has ordered Indian military personnel out of the country
  • India is suspicious of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in the Maldives

Malé, Maldives: The Maldives has signed a “military assistance” deal with China after ordering Indian troops deployed in the small but strategically-placed archipelago to leave, officials said Tuesday.

Some 89 Indian military personnel in the country will be gone by May 10 after having been previously ordered out by pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu, who came to power last year on an anti-Indian platform.

The Maldivian defense ministry said they signed an “agreement on China’s provision of military assistance” with Beijing late Monday, saying the agreement was “gratis,” or without payment or charge, but giving no further details.

The defense ministry said the deal was to foster “stronger bilateral ties,” in a post on social media platform X.

India is suspicious of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in the Maldives, a chain of 1,192 tiny coral islands stretching around 800 kilometers (500 miles) across the equator, as well as in neighboring Sri Lanka.

Both South Asian island nations are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.

Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since Muizzu won elections in September.

New Delhi considers the Indian Ocean archipelago to be within its sphere of influence, but the Maldives has shifted into the orbit of China — its largest external creditor.

Muizzu, who visited Beijing in January where he signed a raft of infrastructure, energy, marine and agricultural deals, has previously denied seeking to redraw the regional balance by bringing in Chinese forces to replace Indian troops.

India last week said it was bolstering its naval forces on its “strategically important” Lakshadweep islands, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Maldives.

The Indian naval unit based on the island of Minicoy will boost “operational surveillance” of the area, the navy said.

Addressing a public rally north of the capital on Monday, Muizzu vowed there would be no Indian troops on Maldivian soil after May 10, when they are expected to complete a withdrawal.

The Indians had been deployed to operate three reconnaissance aircraft New Delhi had gifted Male to patrol its vast maritime boundary.

India is expected to replace the military personnel with civilian staff to operate the aircraft, and the Maldives defense ministry announced last month that Indian civilian crew had begun arriving in the atoll nation.

Last month, Male allowed a controversial Chinese research ship to enter its waters in a sign of the nation’s diplomatic reorientation toward Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 arrived in Male after being refused permission to dock by Sri Lanka following objections from India, which has labeled it a spy ship.

China also gave 12 electric ambulances to the Maldives on Sunday, the health ministry said.


President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia
Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia
  • Country has ‘endless’ investment ability, Tim Cook says on visit to Jakarta
  • Tech giant announces opening of new Apple Developer Academy in Bali

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday met the head of tech giant Apple and urged him to open a manufacturing facility in the country.

CEO Tim Cook was in Jakarta following a trip to Hanoi, where the company announced plans to increase spending on suppliers in Vietnam, its most important manufacturing hub outside China.

Before the meeting between Widodo and Cook, Apple announced plans to boost its investment in Indonesia and said it would open a new Apple Developer Academy — facilities designed to nurture local talent in the tech sector — in Bali, its fourth in the country.

“The meeting with Tim Cook focused on exploring strategic plans, including the opportunity of Apple expanding to Indonesia and further integration into the global supply chain,” Widodo said in a statement.

“I invited Apple to establish an innovation hub with potential universities in Indonesia for human resources development. I also urged Apple to develop a manufacturing facility in the country.”

Apple currently does not have a manufacturing facility in Indonesia but opened its first developer academy there in 2018.

The new facility takes the company’s total investment in Indonesia to 1.6 trillion rupiah ($98.4 million), according to Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

“After this, the Ministry of Industry will conduct a business-matching program. We already have a list of the components (that Apple needs) and mobile components that are already produced in Indonesia, so perhaps there can be a partnership,” he said.

Apple has based much of its key manufacturing of iPads, Airpods and Apple Watches in Vietnam, and more recently India, as it explores ways to diversify its supply chains away from China.

Home to more than 270 million people, Indonesia has a young, tech-savvy population with more than 100 million people aged under 30.

According to figures from Statista, as of January, Apple had an 11.5 percent share of Indonesia’s mobile phone market, behind Oppo (18 percent) and Samsung (17 percent).

“We talked about the president’s desire to see manufacturing in the country and it’s something that we will look at,” Cook told reporters after meeting Widodo.

“I thought we had a great conversation and I really appreciated the time with him. It was a dialogue about how much potential there is in the country and our commitment to the country.”

Cook later met president-elect, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who will take over from Widodo in October.

“I think the investment ability in Indonesia is endless, I think that there’s a lot of great places to invest and we’re investing,” Cook said. “We believe in the country.”


Hundreds of Myanmar troops flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-junta rebels

Hundreds of Myanmar troops flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-junta rebels
Updated 40 min 39 sec ago
Follow

Hundreds of Myanmar troops flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-junta rebels

Hundreds of Myanmar troops flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-junta rebels
  • Insurgents in Rakhine and Chin states launched offensive against Myanmar junta forces in October 2023
  • Bangladesh has already repatriated 300 Myanmar soldiers who crossed the border since February

DHAKA: Hundreds of Myanmar troops have abandoned their posts and crossed to Bangladesh since February amid intensifying clashes between the junta and an ethnic minority army, Bangladeshi border agency officials said on Wednesday.
Fighting between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin states began in late October 2023, with a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which took over the country in early 2021.
Since then, the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army has been locked in fierce battles against the Myanmar Armed Forces and border police in the two states bordering Bangladesh.
“Between last night and Wednesday morning, 46 members of Border Guard Police of Myanmar took shelter in Bangladesh through different borders of Jamchari, Rejupara and Baishfari under Bandarban district,” Shariful Islam, spokesperson of the Border Guard Bangladesh, told Arab News.
“With these, a total of 260 BGP members are currently in Bangladesh.”
The latest intrusion into Bangladeshi territory took place as authorities observed heavy gunfire on the Myanmar side of the border.
“Our border guard members are on high alert ... The battle situation is continuing between the Myanmar army, Arakan Army, RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization), and other separatist groups on the other side of the border in Myanmar,” said Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, commanding officer of the BGB on Teknaf border, in Cox’s Bazar district.
“Since last February, Myanmar border guard members started fleeing into Bangladesh. When they take refuge in Bangladesh, first we disarm them and then shelter them in a safe place arranged by the district administration.”
Bangladeshi officials then repatriate the troops.
“Our top officials, home ministry, and foreign ministry contact Myanmar for the return of their border guard members,” Ahmed said. “Earlier, more than 300 Myanmar BGP members were handed over to Myanmar.”
The insurgents, who are in an alliance with Maynmar’s exiled National Unity Government, have captured a significant chunk of the territory neighboring Bangladesh, but are still far from controlling it, according to Maj. Gen. (rtd) Shahidul Haque, a security analyst who served as military attache at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Myanmar.
“The Arakan Army still hasn’t started their activities in some strategic cities of Rakhine like Sittwe, which is the capital of Arakan. There is another city named Kyaukphyu, where there are huge Chinese investments. If the Arakan Army takes over the control of Sittwe, then control of northern Rakhine will be under the Arakan Army,” he told Arab News.
While Sittwe is currently under curfew imposed by Myanmar junta forces, the escalation of fighting in Rakhine State has curtailed Bangladesh’s trade with Myanmar.
“Our official trade with Myanmar has fallen drastically as the Myanmar government officials who were in charge of different port operations have fled from those areas,” Haque said.
“It’s a huge loss for Bangladesh as we imported a significant amount of agricultural produce from Myanmar.”
The intensifying fighting was also likely to unleash a new wave of Rohingya seeking shelter in Bangladesh, which was already facing a refugee crisis.
More than a million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled Rakhine after a brutal military crackdown in 2017, have been staying in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, turning the coastal district into the world’s largest refugee settlement.
“Bangladesh may face another influx of Rohingya,” Haque said.
“Myanmar military has started massive bombings in some areas. Recently, more than a dozen Rohingya lost their lives in such attacks. This will cause a dangerous situation for us.”
ENDS


Ex-Qaddafi minister in UK private prosecution over policewoman’s death

Ex-Qaddafi minister in UK private prosecution over policewoman’s death
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Ex-Qaddafi minister in UK private prosecution over policewoman’s death

Ex-Qaddafi minister in UK private prosecution over policewoman’s death
  • Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside Libyan Embassy in London 40 years ago
  • Her colleague is ‘keeping promise’ to get justice after years of court battles

LONDON: A police officer in the UK is launching a private prosecution of a Libyan over the killing of his colleague 40 years ago, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, 25, was shot dead outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984 when gunmen in the building opened fire on a rally outside.

On the 40th anniversary of Fletcher’s death, John Murray, who “cradled her as she lay down” on the day of the shooting, is demanding that the remaining key suspect in the case is tried for murder.

The first court hearing in the case concerning Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk is expected in the coming weeks.

On the day of the shooting in 1984, crowds had assembled outside the embassy to protest against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Shots were fired at the demonstration from inside the building, hitting Fletcher on the street outside.

Following a 10-day siege, then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher permitted the Libyans in the embassy to return home due to diplomatic immunity.

Forty years since the incident, nobody has been charged in relation to Fletcher’s death. The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service in 2017 dropped a potential case against Mabrouk, a former minister in the Qaddafi government, in order to prevent national security secrets from being heard in court.

But Murray, who is now retired, said his legal team is launching a private prosecution for murder against Mabrouk, who was found “jointly liable” for the shootings in 2019 despite not carrying a weapon during the incident.

The former minister denied wrongdoing in a response sent to the High Court from Libya in 2019, in a case filed by Murray.

In the private prosecution, the retired police officer’s legal team must overcome a series of hurdles to demand the court bring Mabrouk to the UK.

Murray told the BBC that Fletcher is “sorely missed” ahead of a memorial ceremony on Wednesday, held near the site of the shooting.

“The last few words that Yvonne heard before she died was my voice telling her that I would find out who and why this had happened to her,” he said.

“I also said to her that I would get justice. That was a promise I made. That is a promise I will certainly keep, and the fight goes on.”

Sir Mark Rowley, Metropolitan Police commissioner, said: “WPC Yvonne Fletcher was just 25 when she was callously murdered. She was simply doing her job, policing protest, not unlike what many officers do so often today.”


Father of boy accused of stabbing 2 Sydney clerics saw no signs of extremism, Muslim leader says

Father of boy accused of stabbing 2 Sydney clerics saw no signs of extremism, Muslim leader says
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Father of boy accused of stabbing 2 Sydney clerics saw no signs of extremism, Muslim leader says

Father of boy accused of stabbing 2 Sydney clerics saw no signs of extremism, Muslim leader says

SYDNEY: The father of a boy accused of stabbing two Christian clerics in Australia saw no signs of his son’s extremism, a Muslim community leader said on Wednesday as police prepared to file charges against rioters who besieged a Sydney church demanding revenge.
The 16-year-old boy spoke in Arabic about the Prophet Muhammad after he stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and the Rev. Isaac Royel during a church service on Monday night that was being streamed online. Neither cleric sustained life-threatening injuries.
The Orthodox Assyrian congregation overpowered the boy and he remained in an undisclosed hospital on Wednesday under police guard. He sustained severe hand wounds in the struggle.
Lebanese Muslim Association secretary Gamel Kheir, an advocate for Sydney’s largest Muslim community, said he spent two hours with the boy’s distraught father at the family home soon after the attack. The family has since left their home for fear of retaliation.
“He was in shock,” Kheir told Australian Broadcasting Corp. of the father, who has not been identified.
“He was not aware of any signs of becoming more extreme other than the fact that he was becoming more disobedient to his father. But that was about it. He didn’t see any tell-tale signs, so to speak,” Kheir added.
Kheir is among several community leaders who have accused police of unnecessarily raising community tensions with a premature declaration on Tuesday that the attack at Christ the Good Shepherd Church fit the definition of a terrorist act under New South Wales state law.
“I’m concerned that we’ve rushed to a pre-judgment of a 16-year-old child,” Kheir said.
“He used the language of religion, we’re not debating that at all. In a sense that he targeted another religion, that’s not debatable,” Kheir said.
“What’s debatable is what mental state was this child in? Was he of a sane mind to even make such a rational call? All we’re saying is surely there was time for the police to do a more thorough investigation and a review before they labelled it a terrorist act,” Kheir added.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb on Wednesday stood by her declaration of a terrorist incident as defined by the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act 2002.
The act gives police expanded powers to stop and search people, premises and vehicles without a warrant and to detain suspects in response to a terrorist attack or an imminent threat of an attack.
The church attack met the act’s criteria of having a political, religious or ideological motivation and was intended to cause intimidation, she said.
“I was satisfied based on the information that was provided very early Tuesday morning that it met that criteria and I made that declaration without any hesitation,” Webb said.
She said whether the boy would be charged with terrorism offenses was a separate consideration and would depend on the results of the police investigation.
According to media reports, the boy had been convicted in January of a range of offenses including possession of a switchblade knife, being armed with a weapon with an intention to commit an indictable offense, stalking, intimidation and damaging property. He was released from court on a good behavior bond.
Police are also investigating the conduct of 600 people who converged on the church on Monday night and demanded police hand over the boy, who was temporarily barricaded inside for his own safety.
The crowd hurled bricks, bottles and fence boards at police. Two police officers were hospitalized and several police vehicles were damaged.
Webb said police were attempting to identify perpetrators of crimes during the riot from various sources of video and from fingerprints left on police cars. She expected arrests to be made as early as Wednesday.
“Not all those people there were rioting against the police, but those people who were, they can expect to be identified and arrested and put before the courts,” Webb said.
The Lebanese Muslim Association runs Australia’s largest mosque in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba. Security has been elevated at that mosque and several others since Monday when fire bombing threats were made.
Security has also been increased at shopping malls around Australia after a lone assailant stabbed six people to death at Sydney’s Westfield Bondi Junction mall on Saturday. The rampage ended when the 40-year-old assailant, who had a history of mental illness and no apparent motive, was shot dead by police. No terror declaration was made in that case.
Westfield Bondi Junction will open its doors on Thursday for the first time since it was shut down on Saturday as a crime scene. Shops will remain closed for what is described as a “community reflection day.”
Elliott Rusanow, chief executive of Scenter Group, which owns the mall, said families of victims made private visits on Tuesday.
The church attack is only the third to be classified by Australian authorities as a terrorist act since 2018.
Two police officers and a bystander were shot dead in an ambush by three Christian fundamentalists near the community of Wieambilla in Queensland state in December 2022. The shooters were later killed by police.
In November 2018, a Somalia-born Muslim stabbed three pedestrians in a downtown Melbourne street, killing one, before police shot him dead.


Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast

Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast

Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast
  • Dozens more were also injured in the northwest, where 1,370 houses were damaged

PESHAWAR: Lightning and heavy rains led to 14 deaths in Pakistan, officials said Wednesday, bringing the death toll from four days of extreme weather to at least 63.
Most of the deaths were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in Pakistan’s northwest. Collapsing buildings have killed 32 people, including 15 children and five women, said Khursheed Anwar, a spokesman for the Disaster Management Authority. Dozens more were also injured in the northwest, where 1,370 houses were damaged, Anwar said.
The eastern province of Punjab has reported 21 lighting- and collapse-related deaths, while Baluchistan, in the country’s southwest, reported 10 dead as authorities declared a state of emergency following flash floods. On Wednesday, Baluchistan was bracing for more rains amid ongoing rescue and relief operations.
Heavy rains also came down on the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Pakistan is seeing heavier rain in April due to climate change, said Zaheer Ahmed Babar, a senior official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
“So far there has been 256 percent above normal rainfall in Baluchistan,” Babar told The Associated Press. “Overall, there has been 61 percent above normal rainfall this month across Pakistan, and it shows climate change has already happened in our country.”
In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.
Neighboring Afghanistan also witnessed heavy rains this month. So far, 33 people have died in rain-related incidents there.