India vote to resume with Kashmir poised to oppose Modi

India vote to resume with Kashmir poised to oppose Modi
Kashmiri polling officials carry Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) ahead of the fourth phase of voting of India's general elections in Srinagar on May 12, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 13 May 2024
Follow

India vote to resume with Kashmir poised to oppose Modi

India vote to resume with Kashmir poised to oppose Modi
  • Modi remains popular across much of India and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win the poll when it concludes early next month

SRINAGAR, India: India’s six-week election is set to resume Monday including in Kashmir, where voters are expected to show their discontent with dramatic changes in the disputed territory under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Modi remains popular across much of India and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win the poll when it concludes early next month.
But his government’s snap decision in 2019 to bring Kashmir under direct rule by New Delhi — and the drastic security clampdown that accompanied it — have been deeply resented among the region’s residents, who will be voting for the first time since the move.
“What we’re telling voters now is that you have to make your voice heard,” said former chief minister Omar Abdullah, whose National Conference party is campaigning for the restoration of Kashmir’s former semi-autonomy.
“The point of view that we want people to send out is that what happened... is not acceptable to them,” he told AFP.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. Both claim it in full and have fought two wars over control of the Himalayan region.
Rebel groups opposed to Indian rule have waged an insurgency since 1989 on the side of the frontier controlled by New Delhi, demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of soldiers, rebels and civilians in the decades since, including a spate of firefights between suspected rebels and security forces in the past month.
Violence has dwindled since the Indian portion of the territory was brought under direct rule five years ago, a move that saw the mass arrest of local political leaders and a months-long telecommunications blackout to forestall expected protests.
Modi’s government says its canceling of Kashmir’s special status has brought “peace and development,” and it has consistently claimed the move was supported by Kashmiris.
But his party has not fielded any candidates in the Kashmir valley for the first time since 1996, and experts say the BJP would have been roundly defeated if it had.
“They would lose, simple as that,” political analyst and historian Sidiq Wahid told AFP last week.
The BJP has appealed to voters to instead support smaller and newly created parties that have publicly aligned with Modi’s policies.
But voters are expected to back one of two established Kashmiri political parties calling for the Modi government’s changes to be reversed.
India’s election is conducted in seven phases over six weeks to ease the immense logistical burden of staging the democratic exercise in the world’s most populous country.
More than 968 million people are eligible to vote in India’s election, with the final round of polling on June 1 and results expected three days later.
Turnout so far has declined significantly from the last national poll in 2019, according to election commission figures.
Analysts have blamed widespread expectations that Modi will easily win a third term and hotter-than-average temperatures heading into the summer.
India’s weather bureau has forecast more hot spells in May and the election commission formed a taskforce last month to review the impact of heat and humidity before each round of voting.


DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid

DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid

DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid
  • Locals blame Codeco militia, which claims to be fighting for the interests of the Lendu tribe against the rival Hema tribe, for the killings

BUNIA, DR Congo: Militia fighters on Friday killed more than 20 civilians in a village in the gold-rich Ituri province in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, local residents said.
The residents blamed the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco) militia for the killings. Codeco claims to be fighting for the interests of the Lendu tribe against the rival Hema tribe.
“Codeco militias attacked the village of Lodjo on Thursday, where they killed eight civilians. They came back on Friday, the current death toll is 36,” Innocent Matukadala, head of the Banyali Kilo administrative center, that takes in Lodjo, told AFP.
He said the Congolese army “arrived too late” to prevent the massacre. “The population is in disarray,” he added.
“For now, there are 28 dead (on Friday) and a massive displacement of the population,” said a civil society leader on condition of anonymity.
Other sources put the number of dead at 23. One said the dead included gold miners, women and children.
Dozens of civilians have been killed in Codeco attacks on villages in the province since the beginning of this year.
Inter-communal violence killed thousands in Ituri from 1999-2003 until an intervention by European forces restored calm.
The conflict erupted again in 2017, resulting in thousands more deaths and the mass displacement of local people.
The southern part of Ituri has also suffered from the inter-communal violence spilling over from neighboring North Kivu province, which has been ravaged by attacks blamed on rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces group, affiliated with Islamic State.
The ADF, originally mainly Muslim Ugandan rebels, have established a presence over the past three decades in eastern DR Congo, killing thousands of civilians.
 


Mali political parties say leaders arrested amid crackdown

Mali political parties say leaders arrested amid crackdown
Updated 12 min 38 sec ago
Follow

Mali political parties say leaders arrested amid crackdown

Mali political parties say leaders arrested amid crackdown
  • Eleven people arrested at private meeting, mostly political leaders, activists say
  • Political parties accuse authorities of silencing democratic voices, pursuing dictatorship

BAMAKO, Mali: An alliance of political parties and civil society groups in junta-led Mali said several of their leaders were arrested on Thursday evening during a private meeting at a house of a former minister. The alliance in a statement demanded their prompt release. The West African country, which has been under military rule since a coup in 2020, in April issued a decree that restricted political life in the name of maintaining public order.
The political parties and civil society groups did not say how many people were detained, but Boubacar Toure, a representative of one of the parties, told Reuters on Friday that 11 people had been arrested at the private meeting. Most of them were political leaders, he said.
In a statement, the political parties and groups accused the authorities of pursuing “a path to dictatorship ... with the sole aim of staying in power and silencing all democratic and republican voices.”
Mali’s security ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ruling junta has suspended all activities by political parties and “associations of a political nature” after the group of political parties and civil society organizations jointly criticized the authorities on March 31 for failing to schedule elections within the promised time frame.
In response to the junta’s order, the political parties turned to the Malian Supreme Court but it is not clear when the top court will consider the appeal.
The location of Thursday’s gathering had been shared in a WhatsApp group for activists and political party members, the president of an association told Reuters. He spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his safety.
“The objective of these arbitrary arrests ... is to create fear among citizens, so that no activist, no member of an association, will raise a finger or come out to denounce what is being done,” he said.
Those arrested had gathered during the Eid religious festival to exchange best wishes and also to discuss politics, said the secretary-general of a political party who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
“With the suspension of political parties, the banning of political party activities, it is difficult for people to come together and talk, so every opportunity that allows people to come together is an opportunity to address essential questions,” he said.
He said the arrests would damage confidence in the ruling junta but would not prevent Malians from discussing politics.
“People continue to call each other on the phone, they continue to express their opinions,” he said. “One way or another, we will find the means to meet again, whether in the fields, whether in the orchards, whether around the squares.”


No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights: UN

No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights: UN
Updated 24 min 41 sec ago
Follow

No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights: UN

No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights: UN
  • Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation
  • The Taliban applies a rigorous interpretation of Islam, leading to a suppression of women’s freedoms that the United Nations has described as “gender apartheid”

UNITED NATIONS: Restrictions on women’s rights continue to prevent Afghanistan’s “reintegration” into the international community, a senior UN official said Friday, noting the Taliban’s participation in upcoming talks in Doha is not legitimization of the isolated government.
Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation and apply a rigorous interpretation of Islam, leading to a suppression of women’s freedoms that the United Nations has described as “gender apartheid.”
Restrictions on women and girls, particularly in education, “deprive the country of vital human capital” and lead to a brain drain that undermines the impoverished country’s future, Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN mission in the country, UNAMA, told the Security Council.
“By being deeply unpopular (the restrictions) undermine the de facto authorities’ claims to legitimacy,” she said.
“And they continue to block diplomatic solutions that would lead to Afghanistan’s reintegration into the international community.”
Last year marked the start of a process in Doha to consider strengthening the world community’s engagement with Afghanistan.
The first Doha talks included foreign special envoys to Afghanistan under the aegis of the United Nations, and in the presence of the country’s civil society, including women.
The Taliban had been excluded from the opening talks and refused to take part in the second round if other representatives from the country were involved.
The third round of talks is set for June 30 and July 1 in Doha, and the Taliban has given assurances it will attend.
“For this process to truly begin, it is essential that the de facto authorities participate at Doha,” Otunbayeva said, warning however that high expectations “cannot realistically be met in a single meeting.”
“It cannot be repeated enough that this sort of engagement is not legitimization or normalization,” she stressed.
Responding to criticism over the absence of Afghan civil society representatives, notably women, at the talks that include the Taliban, Otunbayeva said those groups would be present in Doha for a separate meeting on July 2.
“This is what is possible today,” she said.
Afghanistan’s UN ambassador Naseer Ahmad Faiq, who still represents the government that preceded the Taliban’s rise to power, called the absence of civil society and women at the table in Doha “disappointing.”
He also expressed concern the agenda does not include discussions on the political process and human rights in Afghanistan, saying “this will be perceived as a shift away from issues deemed essential to the people of Afghanistan.”
 


Ukraine says Global South nation could host second peace summit

Ukraine says Global South nation could host second peace summit
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Ukraine says Global South nation could host second peace summit

Ukraine says Global South nation could host second peace summit

Ukraine believes a second summit to consider Kyiv’s proposals for peace with Russia could be hosted by a country in the Global South, a senior official was quoted as saying by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Friday.
More than 90 countries attended the first summit in Switzerland last week as Ukraine seeks broad support for its plan to end the war, which began nearly 28 months ago with a full-scale Russian invasion.
Moscow, which was not invited, described the summit’s result — a communique signed by most participants but spurned by India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia in particular — as “close to nil.”
“We have several countries [offering to host], and I can say with a high degree of probability that such a summit could take place in one of the countries of the Global South,” presidential aide Ihor Zhovkva was cited as saying by Interfax-Ukraine.
Ukraine wants the next summit to be convened before the end of the year, he said, adding that Russia could be invited if it was prepared to consider the road map set out by Ukraine and did not issue ultimatums.

Ukrainian serviceman Oleksandr watches for Russian drones next to a military vehicle with a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft cannon at an undisclosed location in Donetsk region, Ukraine on June 19, 2024. (REUTERS)

President Vladimir Putin said on June 14 that Russia would end the war in Ukraine if Kyiv agreed to drop its ambitions to join NATO and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed and partly occupied by Moscow — demands Kyiv rejected as tantamount to surrender.
Zhovkva declined to identify the prospective hosts, saying this would only help Russia to undermine the diplomatic efforts.
Having the backing of most Western countries, Kyiv has stepped up its efforts to win support from the Global South and from Asian countries historically closer to Russia and more ambivalent on Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
China, which proclaimed a “no limits” partnership with Russia days before Moscow launched its invasion, did not attend the summit. It portrays itself as neutral and denies supplying Moscow with weapons or ammunition. (Reporting by Yuliia Dysa; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


Japanese Emperor Naruhito finally begins delayed UK state visit

Japanese Emperor Naruhito finally begins delayed UK state visit
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Japanese Emperor Naruhito finally begins delayed UK state visit

Japanese Emperor Naruhito finally begins delayed UK state visit
  • The emperor’s trip is the third state visit of Charles’ reign, but the first since it was revealed earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with cancer

LONDON: Emperor Naruhito and his wife begin a week long visit to Britain on Saturday, visiting Oxford University where they both studied and attending a formal banquet with King Charles, but there are no plans for a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako, had been due to make the trip in 2020 when Queen Elizabeth was still alive but it was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their first overseas trip together after his enthronement was to Elizabeth’s funeral in 2022, and ahead of the state visit Naruhito, 64, spoke of the kindness the British royals had shown to him when he arrived in Britain to study in the early 1980s.
He recalled how the late queen had invited him to Buckingham Palace for tea which she made herself.
“I have fond memories of the heartwarming hospitality I received from her majesty the queen and the royal family, making me feel like I was part of their family,” he told a news conference held in Tokyo.
The emperor’s trip is the third state visit of Charles’ reign, but the first since it was revealed earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
Naruhito said he was grateful the king would host them despite his illness, and he also sent good wishes to Charles’ daughter-in-law Kate, wife of heir Prince William, who is having preventative chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
“I understand that they are both going through a hard time, but I pray that their treatment will go smoothly and that they will have a speedy recovery,” he said.
The official reason for the trip is to celebrate the long ties between the two royal families, and to demonstrate the deep relationship between the two countries.
However, the Japanese royals are also using it as a chance to return to Oxford where they both studied at separate times, while Naruhito will visit the River Thames flood barrier which he had researched while at university there.
The visit clashes with campaigning for the British election on July 4, and a Japanese foreign ministry official said there were no plans for a meeting with the prime minister.
The official state elements of the trip begin on Tuesday when Prince William will formally greet the emperor, before a grand carriage procession along The Mall to Buckingham Palace where there will be a state banquet.
During the trip Naruhito will also privately visit St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle to lay a wreath on the tomb of Queen Elizabeth.