US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
Former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India, on June 18. (REUTERS)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
  • Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait
  • The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture

DHARAMSHALA, India: A bipartisan United States congressional delegation met with the Dalai Lama Wednesday at his residence in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China which views the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism as a dangerous separatist.
This comes as Washington and Beijing have recently restarted talks after several years of turmoil that began after the imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods under the Trump administration. Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait.
The high-level delegation, led by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and including Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrived Tuesday at the hillside town, which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has made his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. There, they met with officials from the Tibetan government-in-exile, which wants more autonomy for Tibet.
Beijing doesn’t recognize the exiled administration and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.
After meeting the spiritual leader on Wednesday, the seven US lawmakers addressed hundreds who had gathered at a monastery just outside the 88-year-old Dalai Lama’s residence, waving American and Tibetan flags.
They told the crowd that a key focus of their visit was to underscore the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by the US Congress last week, and aims to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials with the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution between Tibet and Beijing. The bill should now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The bill is “a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and our understanding of this issue of the freedom of Tibet,” Pelosi said, eliciting applause.
McCaul, the Republican representative, said the bill reaffirms American support for the Tibetan right to self-determination. “Just this week our delegation received a letter from the Chinese Communist Party, warning us not to come here... but we did not let the CCP intimidate us for we are here today,” he said as people cheered.
However, the visit and newly passed bill have triggered swift backlash from Beijing.
Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, urged Washington on Tuesday not to support Tibetan independence and said the White House “must not sign the bill into law,” or China will take “resolute measures,” without elaborating on what these measures may be.
“It’s known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a purely religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Lin added, urging the US side to “have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”
The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has a history of engaging with US officials, including meeting American presidents — from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama — except for Donald Trump. He has yet to meet Biden since he took office in 2021.
The Dalai Lama is expected to travel to the US on Thursday for medical treatment on his knees, but it is unclear if he will meet any officials while there.
Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly asked the US not to interfere with Tibetan affairs and has argued that the people of Tibet have enjoyed social stability and economic growth under its rule.
While India considers Tibet to be part of China, it hosts Tibetan exiles.


Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
  • Cyprus has in recent months been staging ground for collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to Gaza
  • Aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened

NICOSIA: Cyprus’ defense minister said Wednesday that plans are in motion to build a major naval base on the east Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast capable of hosting large ships from European Union countries and other nations to carry out a variety of missions including humanitarian aid deliveries to the tumultuous Middle East region.
Vasilis Palmas told reporters that Cyprus’ recently elevated geopolitical role as the European Union’s closest member to the Middle East warrants the building of infrastructure that can support policies geared toward the region.
Cyprus has in recent months been the staging ground for the collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Gaza. The aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened. Last year, Cyprus served as a waystation for third-country nationals evacuated from Sudan.
Palmas said the construction of the base would “contribute decisively” to policy implementation in the region.
He said Greece is contributing technical know-how to the project, while actual construction will be guided by the findings of an expert study that will be completed in the next few days.
The naval base will be built on an existing naval installation some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the coastal town of Limassol, which in 2011 was the site of a huge explosion of 480 tons of seized Iranian gunpowder that killed 13 people, knocked out Cyprus’ main power station and stirred up a political crisis.


190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts
Updated 17 July 2024
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190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

ABU DHABI: The UAE has succeeded in securing the exchange of 190 prisoners of war between Russian and Ukraine, state news agency WAM has reported.

The UAE now secured the release of 1,558 captives with its sixth successful mediation effort between the warring parties, less than one month after the previous exchange process, the report added.

“These efforts reflect the UAE’s commitment to being a reliable mediator supporting diplomacy to resolve the crisis between the two countries,” a statement for the UAE’s foreign ministry said.

The UAE was committed to ‘continuing all efforts and initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, stressing the importance of dialogue, and de-escalation, as the only ways to resolve the conflict, and for mitigating its humanitarian repercussions,’ it added.

The UAE also managed to negotiate the exchange of two prisoners between the United States and the Russian Federation in December 2022.


Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the Taliban's deputy head of mission on Wednesday and urged their administration to take action against Afghanistan-based militant groups that Islamabad says attacked a military base this week.
Militants attacked the base in Bannu in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing eight Pakistani security force members.


Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
  • Students say seven killed in overnight clashes with police, government supporters
  • They protest reservation of 30 percent of government jobs for families of 1971 war fighters

DHAKA: Bangladesh indefinitely closed all educational institutions on Wednesday following deadly clashes between students and police, as campus protests against job quotas spread across the country.

Students have been demonstrating at campuses since early July against the government’s quota system, in which 30 percent of public service jobs are reserved for the families of those who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The students demand the system’s reform and more just distribution of the well-paid public service jobs.

The protests turned violent on Sunday, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undermined the cause by suggesting that the demonstrators supported the “razakars,” or those who had collaborated with the Pakistani military — an enemy occupying force — during the 1971 war.

Students denounced the comparison and more of them joined the rallies, where they clashed with members of the youth wing of Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and security forces.

As violence escalated and turned deadly on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh announced in separate notifications that all secondary educational institutions, universities and medical colleges across the country would remain closed “until further notice” and “for the safety of the students.”

According to local media reports at least six people, including four students, were killed and 400 injured when the clashes broke out in Dhaka, Chottogram, Rajshahi and Rangpur.

Protesters estimate that the actual numbers are even higher.

“More than 1,000 of our protesters were injured during the clashes. Seven died, including one bystander. Just now, we held funeral prayers in absentia for our fellows who lost their lives,” said Mohammad Nahid Islam, coordinator of the Students Against Discrimination group, which is part of the protests in Dhaka.

“Today, police attacked protesting students at the Dhaka University campus with a stun grenade and tear gas shells. Many of our female students became sick and injured ... We are concerned about our security.”

Despite repeated attempts by Arab News, Bangladesh Police did not respond to requests for comment.


Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams
Updated 17 July 2024
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Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

MANILA: Women have topped this year’s Shariah Bar examinations in the Philippines, with Supreme Court data showing that female examinees not only obtained the best score but also had the highest passing rate.

Shariah, or Islamic law, is partially implemented in the Philippines, applicable only to the Muslim community — about 10 percent of the 120 million of the country’s predominantly Catholic population.

A total of 853 candidates took part in the Shariah Bar exam in April and May, and 183 passed it. More than half of those who passed the exams were women, nine of whom were among the top 10 scorers.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh announced the results on Tuesday, saying that “62.3 percent of the total passers are female. I’m very happy to announce that.”

This year’s exam also saw the “largest number of Shariah Bar examinees we have had in nearly 40 years,” Singh said.

“This is to strengthen and make the Shariah justice system more accessible by encouraging and giving more opportunities to aspiring Shariah councilors.”

Separate from the regular Bar tests for aspiring lawyers, the Shariah Bar exams are the professional licensure examination covering Islamic law for Shariah court councilor candidates.

Established under the 1977 Code of Muslim Personal Laws, the Islamic law courts are under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court and have jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as well as other parts of the southern Mindanao island, which have significant Muslim populations.

The courts have application over personal status law, including marriage, as well as financial laws and halal certification.

The Supreme Court said last year that in its goal to “strengthen the Shariah justice system” under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027, it was studying the possibility of expanding the mandate of Islamic courts to cover also criminal and commercial cases.