Read The Hindu Important Articles 26 November 2018
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VHP raises temple pitch in Ayodhya
Asks Muslims to give up claim to land; says construction date will be announced at 2019 Kumbh Mela
Putting up a show of strength in Ayodhya ahead of the 26th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-led Dharma Sabha on Sunday asked Muslims to give up their claim to the disputed land and appealed to the BJP government to expedite the process for construction of a Ram temple.
Addressing the sabha after the inauguration, Ramji Das of Nirmohi Akhara said, “The date for construction of the Ram temple will be declared at the 2019 Kumbh Mela.”
Assurance from Minister
Swami Jagatguru Bhadracharya of Chitrakoot, a Padma Vibhushan awardee, said he had received assurances from a top Minister of the Narendra Modi government that after December 11, when the model code of conduct (in force for the Assembly elections in five States) would be lifted, the Centre would “find a solution clearing the path for the Ram Mandir.”
The pontiff said the Minister hinted at an ordinance and assured him that Mr. Modi would “not deceive” the Hindus. “The Minister told me that we are taking such a decision that nobody can stop the construction of a Ram Mandir,” Swami Bhadracharya said, addressing thousands of VHP and RSS activists at the Bada Bhakt Maal ki Bagiya grounds.
Chants of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ reverberated at the venue, located a few kilometres away from the disputed site, which was heavily guarded.
VHP international vice-president Champat Rai, who led the rally, said the Hindus would not settle for any division of the disputed land, referring to the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. “We want the entire land. The day we get it, there will be peace and happiness in the country and development,” said Mr. Rai.
To resign is a right of the employee: apex court
Can’t be compelled to serve, says SC in case of Air India employee
To resign is a right of an employee and he cannot be forced to continue, the Supreme Court has said in a recent order.
An employee cannot be compelled to serve in case he is not willing “until and unless there is some stipulation in the rules or in the terms of appointment or disciplinary proceedings is pending or contemplated which is sought to be avoided by resigning from the services.”
A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran made the observations while allowing the appeal of a former Air India engineer, who was refused his dues by the Central government carrier.
Sanjay Jain served in Air India for the stipulated minimum five-year period before he resigned and served his 30-day notice.
He joined a private airline and later approached his former employer to pay his dues, Provident Fund, gratuity and unpaid wages.
Air India said it had refused to accept his resignation and asked him to re-join duty.
The Bombay High Court dismissed his petition in September 2010. Subsequently, Mr. Jain moved the Supreme Court.
Setting aside the High Court’s decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Jain had “rightly terminated the relationship by serving the requisite notice for his resignation.”
RIMES terms Titli cyclone ‘rarest of rare’
It has recommended a detailed assessment to understand the risks in the wake of the devastation
The Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) for Africa and Asia, a 45-nation international organisation on disaster warning, has termed ‘Titli’, the severe cyclonic storm that devastated Odisha in October, as ‘rarest cyclone’.
“More than 200 years of cyclone track history in the Odisha coast reveals that the Titli cyclone is the rarest of rare in terms of its characteristics such as recurvature after landfall and retaining its destructive potential after landfall and recurvature away from the coastal areas for more than two days,” says RIMES in its latest report.
The UN-registered organisation said: “Considering the history of cyclone tracks, no synthetic track projection captures the Titli type of cyclones. The forecast information available lacks actionable early warning information such as no indication of occurrence of secondary hazards, including landslides far away from the coasts.”
The severe cyclonic storm left more than 60 people dead, mainly due to land slide in interior Gajapati district. Odisha, which takes immense pride in disaster preparedness, was confounded in the wake of the damage to both life and property caused by Titli in interior districts.
Earlier, India Meteorological Department had called the formation of Titli as a ‘rarest of rare’ occurrence. The severe cyclone had changed its path after landfall.
According to RIMES, the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority faced challenges in anticipating and managing Titli’s impact due to lack of impact-based actionable early warning information and prior experience not only in India but also elsewhere.
“The OSDMA, by learning the lessons from Titli cyclone, could evolve measures to minimise impacts in both coastal and non-coastal regions more effectively in future,” it said.
The international body said: “The State government actions linked to the cyclone-risk management are also heavily focused on the coastal areas where cyclones cross at their peak intensities. Therefore, coastal areas now have been largely well managed through evacuations and other protocols, leading to zero casualties in these areas.”
“The highest number of casualties occurred in a village called Baraghara in Gajapati district due to landslides. People did not evacuate, as the risk is unknown and also not expected. There was no pin-pointed forecast available what will happen where,” it said.
The RIMES has recommended that a detailed risk assessment has to be carried out for Odisha to understand the risks in the light of the Titli devastation.
U.S. readied special teams for Mumbai
The then George Bush administration had mobilised special forces to neutralise Pakistan-based LeT terrorists holding people hostage in hotels during the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, a former White House official has revealed.
But, before the Indian authorities gave the necessary clearances and the special forces could take off for Mumbai, Indian commandos had already completed their job, said Anish Goel, who was part of the White House’s 26/11 crisis management group.
“I’m a bit hazy on the details now. It’s been 10 years. But, we were offering to send commando teams to Mumbai to root out the terrorist cells that were there,” Goel, the director of South Asia in the National Security Council of the White House at the time of the 26/11 attack, said.
Embrace values of Statute: PM
On the eve of Constitution Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the work of the Constituent Assembly in framing the Constitution in less than three years was a great example of productivity and time management.
Making his 50th Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast, Mr. Modi on Sunday urged the country to take forward the values enshrined in the Constitution to bring “peace, progress and prosperity.”
The unique point in our Constitution, Mr. Modi said, is that the rights and duties have been given in detail, adding that a balance between these two in the lives of the citizens will take the nation forward.
The PM mentioned the pivotal role played by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly.
Russia chosen despite poor show: bidders
‘Norms violated in defence deal’
Allegations of procedural deviations continue to be levelled against the Army’s multi-billion dollar deal for Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) in which Russia was declared the lowest bidder last week. It has been learnt that two other contenders, MBDA of France and Sweden’s SAAB, protested as the announcement was made, alleging deviations to favour Russia.
“MBDA and SAAB lodged a protest after Igla-S from Rosoboronexport was selected,” an official source said. Both had alleged violations earlier too.
During the trials in 2014, the compliance requirement was that six missiles should be fired, of which at least four need to hit the target. The allegation is that Igla-S hit the target only once while the others had at least four hits. During re-trials in 2016, the compliance requirement was changed from shooting targets to only tracking and locking them. Another allegation is that Igla-S is no longer in production.
A defence official said on condition of anonymity that no procedure had been violated. When contacted, the Army and the companies declined comment.
EU leaders back May’s Brexit deal
Spotlight shifts to U.K. govt.’s ability to persuade Parliament to approve the agreement later this year
A year and a half of negotiations on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU came to an end formally on Sunday, as leaders of the 27 EU nations agreed to the terms of the controversial agreement at a summit in Brussels.
The approval comes after Britain and Spain reached agreement on the status of Gibraltar, removing a last-minute dispute that threatened to jeopardise the deal. However, it is far from the end of the battle for Britain’s Conservative government, which faces stiff opposition within its own ranks and from other political parties, who could vote down the deal as it passes through the parliamentary approval process.
‘Partners & allies’
Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, announced that the EU 27 leaders had endorsed the withdrawal agreement and the non-binding political declaration of future relations between the EU and the U.K. “We will remain partners, allies, friends,” said Michel Barnier, the lead EU negotiator, at the start of the summit on Sunday.
The course to the Sunday summit appeared set last week, after negotiators on both sides reached agreements on the terms of the treaty and the political declaration. However, uncertainty returned as Spain expressed its concerns about the inclusion of Gibraltar in the withdrawal agreement and threatened to exert its veto unless there were assurances that the territory would be the subject of separate bilateral negotiations between Spain and the U.K.
A compromise has since been reached – which Spain has touted as a concession by Britain (a suggestion Britain has in turn rebutted), which resulted in the Spanish government withdrawing its opposition.
However, the significant developments in Brussels will now put the spotlight firmly back on Westminster, and the government’s ability to persuade Parliament to approve the deal later this year. Over the past week, as opposition to the deal increased within Parliament, Theresa May attempted to reach out the public and businesses in the U.K. to get them on her side. On Saturday she published an open letter to the public, urging “renewal and reconciliation” and for people to get behind the deal. She insisted that the deal worked for both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ supporters.
However, parliamentary opponents show no sign of backing down, calling for the removal of the controversial “backstop” mechanism to ensure there isn’t a danger of a hard border developing in Northern Ireland.
While Conservatives believe the backstop’s existence prevents Britain from truly taking back control (while at the same time leaving Britain without a voice at the table), the DUP of Northern Ireland believe it would threaten the country’s territorial sovereignty.
Speaking on the BBC on Sunday morning, the party’s leader Arlene Foster indicated that they would vote against the deal and urged the government to return to the negotiating table to avoid this. Ms. Foster warned that the party would have to review the the confidence and supply agreement, under which it has been supporting the Conservative government.
The Labour Party also insisted that the deal represented the “worst of all worlds.” “It gives us less say over our future, and puts job and living standards at risk,” said leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking in Brussels, however, Ms. May insisted that the deal was the “best one” available to the U.K., and urged parliamentarians to back the deal and avoid any move that would “open the door to yet more division and uncertainty.”
President of the EU Commission Jean Claude Juncker also indicated that there was no further possibility for further concessions from the EU side. “The European Union will not change its fundamental position,” he said.
Ten years after the Mumbai attack
Vigilance is important against new variants of terror, remaining ahead of the curve is even more vital
Ten years ago on this day, Pakistan carried out one of the most heinous of terror attacks perpetrated anywhere in the world. The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, named after the date in 2008 when the attack took place, is in some respects comparable to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. Comparisons with the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005 are, however, misplaced.
India, and Mumbai city, are no strangers to terror. In 1993, over 250 people were killed in Mumbai in a series of coordinated bomb explosions attributed to Dawood Ibrahim, reportedly as reprisal for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. In July 2006, bomb explosions in a number of suburban trains in Mumbai killed over 200 people and injured several more. The most audacious terror attack till the 26/11 Mumbai terror incident was the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 by the Pakistan-based terror outfits, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Into the 21st century
Terrorism is hardly a post-modern phenomenon. Several of the terror attacks in the 21st century, however, reflect a paradigmatic change in the tactics of asymmetric warfare, and the practice of violence. Today’s attacks carried out in different corners of the world by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and similar terror outfits, are very different from those witnessed in the previous century. The tactics employed may vary, but the objective is common, viz. achieving mass casualties and widespread destruction.
The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was one of a kind, and not a mere variant of previous instances of terrorist violence. It was the rarest of rare cases, where one state’s resources, viz. Pakistan’s, were employed to carry out a series of terror attacks in a major Indian city. It was a case of ‘war by other means’, in which the authorities in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the Pakistani armed forces, were involved. It is difficult to recall any recorded instance in modern times where a state and its various agencies were directly involved in carrying out a terror attack of this nature. As is now known, the Mumbai terror attack was not based on a sudden impulse or whim. Several years of planning and preparation had preceded the attack, even as the the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, was talking peace with then Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
The degree of involvement of the Pakistani deep state in the planning and preparation of the attack is evident from many aspects that have come to light subsequently. Seldom has any terrorist group then, or for that matter even now, used such highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art communications, including Voice over Internet Protocol. Planning for the attack involved the use of a third country address. Handlers in Pakistan were given unfettered freedom to provide instructions to the terrorists during the entire four-day siege. The choice of the sea route aimed at deception and avoiding detection, was again dictated by official agencies.
The involvement of the Pakistani Special Forces in preparing the 10-member fidayeen group was confirmed by one of the conspirators, Abu Hamza, arrested subsequent to the 26/11 terror attack. The training regimen dictated by the Pakistani Special Forces involved psychological indoctrination by highlighting atrocities on Muslims in India and other parts of the globe, including Chechnya and Palestine; basic and advanced combat training; commando training; training in weapons and explosives; training in swimming and sailing — all under the watchful eyes of Pakistani instructors from the Special Forces. An even more unusual feature of the Mumbai attacks was the involvement of two U.S./Canadian nationals of Pakistani origin, David Headley (who at the time was a LeT operative) and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. The 10 attackers came via the sea from Karachi in a small boat, hijacked an Indian fishing trawler en route, and reached Colaba in a rubber dinghy on November 26 evening.
Horror over four days
The targets were carefully chosen after having been reconnoitred previously by Headley for maximum impact, viz. the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the Jewish centre at Nariman House, and the Leopold Cafe, since these places were frequented by Europeans, Indians and Jews. The Mumbai terror attack went on for nearly four days, from the evening of November 26 to the morning of November 29. Seldom has a terrorist incident lasted this length of time, since the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972.
From an Indian standpoint, it was perhaps for the first time that an operation of this nature involved Rapid Action Force personnel, Marine Commandos (MARCOS), the National Security Guard (NSG) and the Mumbai Police.
It was inevitable that there should be a great deal of recrimination in the wake of terror attack. The principal charge was that the security establishment had failed to anticipate an attack of this nature, and was not adequately prepared to deal with the situation. In retrospect, it has to be recognised that the Mumbai terror attack was an unprecedented exercise in violence, involving not merely a well-trained terrorist group, but also backed by the resources of a state, viz. Pakistan. Till then, the Pakistani state was only known to harbour terrorist groups like the LeT and the JeM, and use terror as an instrumentality to create problems for India.
Secrecy was the very essence of this operation. Plans were limited to a mere handful of persons. In the LeT hierarchy, apart from Hafiz Sayeed, only a few like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, its chief military commander, Sajid Mir and Zarar Shah, its communications chief, were privy to the operational plans. U.S. intelligence is said to have penetrated Zarar Shah’s computer, and possibly had far more details of the operation than were actually shared with Indian intelligence.
In the wake of the terror attack, several steps were initiated to streamline the security set-up. Coastal security was given high priority, and it is with the Navy/Coast Guard/marine police. A specialised agency to deal with terrorist offences, the National Investigation Agency, was set up and has been functioning from January 2009. The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has been constituted to create an appropriate database of security related information. Four new operational hubs for the NSG have been created to ensure rapid response to terror attacks. The Multi Agency Centre, which functions under the Intelligence Bureau, was further strengthened and its activities expanded. The Navy constituted a Joint Operations Centre to keep vigil over India’s extended coastline.
Notwithstanding increased vigil and streamlining of the counter-terrorism apparatus, the ground reality is that newer methodologies, newer concepts more daringly executed, and more deeply laid plans of terrorist groups have made the world a less safe place. The actual number of terror attacks may have declined in recent years, but this does not mean that the situation is better than what existed a decade ago. Terrorism remains a major threat, and with modern refinements, new terrorist methodologies and terrorism mutating into a global franchise, the threat potential has become greater.
One new variant is the concept of ‘enabled terror’ or ‘remote controlled terror’, viz. violence conceived and guided by a controller thousands of miles away. Today the ‘lone wolf’ is, more often than not, part of a remote-controlled initiative, with a controller choosing the target, the nature of the attack and even the weaponry to be used. Internet-enabled terrorism and resort to remote plotting is thus the new threat. Operating behind a wall of anonymity, random terror is likely to become the new terror imperative. There are no ready-made answers to this new threat. Vigilance is important, but remaining ahead of the curve is even more vital.
M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Adviser and a former Governor of West Bengal
Touchstone of the Republic
The unity of India is sustained by the Constitution and not by any particular faith
The adoption of the Constitution on November 26, 1949 by the Constituent Assembly was a historic moment that laid the foundation for a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. The Constitution provides a framework for good governance based on law and jurisprudence.
Finding a place
From its first meeting on December 9, 1946 till the completion of its work and adoption of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly had to work in a politically turbulent environment. Some may not know that B.R. Ambedkar did not find a place among the 296 members initially sent to the Constituent Assembly. Only the withdrawal of Jogendra Nath Mandal, who was nominated from East Bengal, paved the way for Ambedkar to enter the Constituent Assembly. On June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India, announced the Partition of India. Bengal and Punjab were to be divided. Ambedkar ceased to be a member of the Constituent Assembly when India was partitioned.
Given the dependence of the Assembly on Ambedkar, who had done extraordinary work, Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel took efforts to get him elected from Bombay Presidency. It was only then that Ambedkar was immediately re-inducted as a member of the Constituent Assembly. By that time he was already Law Minister in the Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, who had moved the Objectives Resolution that defined the aims of the Constituent Assembly. Historians point out that Mahatma Gandhi, who knew about Ambedkar’s excellent work in the Constituent Assembly and in various other committees, was keen that Ambedkar head the Drafting Committee. On August 30, 1947, the Drafting Committee formally met and unanimously elected Ambedkar as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. Thereby he became the prime architect of the Constitution.
Partition witnessed huge tragedies: Hindu-Muslim clashes and killings, migration of large numbers of people, and the assassination of Gandhi. Ambedkar remained firm that “the destiny of the country ought to count for everything”. He did not compromise with divisive communal forces. He stoutly rejected the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. He warned that if at all Hindu Rashtra became a reality, it would be a calamity for the nation. He rejected the idea of a theocratic state and a presidential form of government. He believed in the idea of a republic and wanted India to be a secular state.
Challenge to the Constitution
Today there is an open challenge to the Constitution. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena are all competing and coordinating with one another to achieve their agenda of converting the Indian secular state into a Hindu Rashtra. They have become desperate and aggressive in their pursuit to subvert the Constitution.
Ambedkar defined the Indian state as a welfare state in a society that is stratified by caste and deeply mired in structural forms of inequalities. The state, he said, should strive “to secure to all its citizens, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
The way the Constitution was drafted and the way Ambedkar explained the provisions enshrined in it brought out its secular and socialist contents. They are of abiding significance in our time when communal and fascist forces have created a counter culture that endangers the Constitution itself. The way the Indian state is emerging as a neoliberal state goes against the socialist feature of our Constitution. When Professor K.T. Shah moved an amendment on November 15, 1948 to insert the words “secular, federal, socialist” into the Constitution, his proposal was vetoed. Ambedkar said that the Directive Principles of State Policy were declared to be fundamental in the governance of our country. In other words, the socialist contents enshrined in the Directive Principles must be the guiding force for governance. He said, “If these directive principles… are not socialistic in their direction and in their content, I fail to understand what more socialism can be.” The Directive Principles must be followed in letter and spirit when rising levels of income inequality perpetuate other inequalities. Liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation have further exacerbated the problem of unequal access to basic opportunities. As President K.R. Narayanan said in his speech on the eve of Republic Day in 2000, “Our three-way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation must provide safe pedestrian crossings for the unempowered India also, so that it too can move towards ‘equality of status and opportunity’.”
The manner in which constitutional objectives are being deliberately ignored by the present government in pursuit of the goals set by various corporates reminds me of Ambedkar’s warning in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly. He said that if political parties put creed ahead of the interests of the country, then we would stand to lose our independence forever.
Protecting the idea of India
Ambedkar had warned that even without altering the Constitution, administrators could subvert it using their powers, causing it to collapse. We need to address such problems, which have assumed the proportion of a crisis today. We need to defend the Constitution and cultivate constitutional morality. In Kerala, for instance, we are seeing people being mobilised to prevent the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment that allows women to enter the Sabarimala temple. This is a violation of the law and the Constitution. The leaders of the ruling party are openly making statements which are inconsistent with the constitutional scheme of governance. Let us be mindful of the fact that the unity and integrity of India are sustained by the Constitution and not by any particular faith. Constitutional values combined with the civilisational values of acceptance and tolerance are the need of the hour to defend the idea of India. In undermining the Constitution, we are undermining and diminishing the very idea of India.
D. Raja is National Secretary, Communist Party of India, and Member of Parliament
Along the new Silk Roads
Regional agreements such as the BRI could embrace greater trade liberalisation goals
At the recent Paris Peace Forum commemorating the end of World War I, the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank made the case for a more inclusive multilateralism. Drawing comparisons between 1914 and today’s situations in terms of inequalities, they warned against the temptation of a divisive globalisation which could only benefit the wealthiest.
China’s discourse on a new “connected” multilateralism, through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is building upon the same inclusive project now led by a non-Western and non-democratic superpower. There is indeed an ambition to influence the world — if not directly control it — by making the rules on which it functions. This normative determination to achieve a far greater objective has hardly been addressed when analysing China’s BRI and its impact.
There is more to the BRI than the six economic corridors spanning Asia, Europe and Africa, of which the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is perhaps the most controversial. The BRI is included in the Constitution of an officially socialist China. The BRI “shared interest” and “shared growth” hence coexist with Marxism-Leninism and “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” in a country now said to be more trade-friendly than its protectionist American rival, the U.S. Beijing has never been afraid of contradictions in terms and this capacity to ‘Sinicise’ concepts is a signature trait. The BRI is a political project and a Chinese one no matter the number of other partners joining the effort and participating to its funding.
Normative yet not legal
In this regard, the normative framework put in place by Beijing plays an interesting role. These norms manifest themselves in the form of guiding principles, declarations, general agreements and other communication tools including the hardly studied “Digital Silk Road” envisaging “innovation action plans for e-commerce, digital economy, smart cities and science and technology parks”. They constitute a normative discourse, a form of behaviour, a standard to abide by, but are not legally binding yet. The BRI indeed develops without any dedicated law, nor is it a comprehensive trade or economic partnership. It is different from conventional trade agreements that seek to eliminate market access barriers, harmonise regulations and impose preconditions for entry. The only legal texts one could refer to are to be found in the network of foreign trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties and other international investment agreements China is a party to. However, these networks of agreements have no special link with the BRI, although they could be brought in to resolve issues emanating from the BRI. China is a party to numerous state-sponsored business contracts between Chinese firms, including state-owned companies, and foreign business partners, public or private.
This non-legal yet rather domineering proposal is not a surprise. The fluid, if not vague, nature of the BRI is nothing but a manifestation of a pragmatism with Chinese characteristics that has the capacity to constantly adjust to a fast-changing environment. The absence of law is actually partial and temporary. China is preparing for the domestic resolution of BRI disputes with the creation by the Supreme People’s Court of two dedicated branches of the China International Commercial Court, one in Shenzhen to tackle the Maritime Road disputes, and one in Xi’an to settle overland Belt issues. In addition, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre has specific BRI arbitration clauses and administered arbitration rules. Naturally, investor-state disputes could also be settled on the basis of China’s investment agreements, nationally or internationally, in a given arbitration forum — for example, the World Bank-sponsored International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID).
The institutional setting of the BRI is also rather light. Joint committees are put in place and the existing institutions mobilised from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is contributing to the BRI despite the rather distant position of some of its members and India in particular, which is the largest recipient of AIIB funding. In this context, China is not challenging the existing institutional set-up or proposing something different than what exists in the Bretton Woods Institutions. From the functioning of the banks to their advisory committees, the same structure and often the same people are found.
The BRI as it stands is not conceived as a tool for economic integration. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six countries is better equipped to deal with market access and integration goals within the Asia-Pacific region. Again, the BRI’s dispute resolution will be predominantly on commercial disputes, involving either projects or contractual obligations. However, with the world trading system passing through a turmoil, the possibility of regional trade agreements or amorphous legal devices such as the BRI embracing greater trade liberalisation goals cannot be entirely ruled out. A failure to resolve the WTO Appellate Body crisis or any consequent weakening of the multilateral dispute resolution process could present an opportunity for purely nationalistic initiatives to transmute and assume larger objectives.
Leïla Choukroune is Professor of International Law and Director of the University of Portsmouth Research and Innovation Theme in Democratic Citizenship. James J. Nedumpara is Head and Professor of Centre for Trade and Investment Law, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. They co-Chair the South Asia International Economic Law Network (SAIELN). The views expressed are personal
What’s in a name?
We need to interrogate some words for their pejorative connotations
The crucial difference between technology companies and news organisations came out in an unambiguous manner over the last fortnight. Two instances clearly showed that platform companies, despite their financial muscle, have few moral and ethical resources to deal with diversity, contentious issues and public discourse on such issues. The first was a major investigation by The New York Times headlined, “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis”. The second was how Twitter handled the controversy of its CEO Jack Dorsey’s interaction with a group of women journalists, activists and organisers in New Delhi. While the former showed how inadequate internal structures led to the manipulation of democratic processes in the U.S. presidential elections and the Brexit referendum, the controversy in India erupted over Mr. Dorsey holding a poster that read, “Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy”.
The importance of self-reflection
News organisations are accountable to the public, they provide attribution in their stories and have established rules of engagement. All this ensures that they report on multiple issues without being bulldozed by intolerant sections. On the other hand, platform companies need to understand the rules of public engagement, which go beyond metrics and algorithms. They can learn a lesson or two from responsible media organisations on these issues. This requires reflection and contemplation — being self-critical is a virtue and not a sign of weakness.
A debate has been playing out online over the use of the word ‘tribe’ by the media, and this calls for discussion and self-reflection. This happened after John Allen Chau, an American national, was killed by the protected Sentinelese in North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar region. The Hindu carried an explainer on the Sentinelese which read: “The Sentinelese, a negrito tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans, have not faced incursions and remain hostile to outsiders. The inhabitants are connected to the Jarawa on the basis of physical, as well as linguistic similarities, researchers say. Based on carbon dating of kitchen middens by the Anthropological Survey of India, Sentinelese presence was confirmed in the islands to 2,000 years ago. Genome studies indicate that the Andaman tribes could have been on the islands even 30,000 years ago.”
The use of the term tribe
Some people objected to the use of the word ‘tribe’ to describe the Sentinelese. Poet Ranjit Hoskote tweeted: “I’m appalled that many of us still use the contested and demeaning term ‘tribe’, with its baggage of colonial taxonomy and early, invasive anthropology (perhaps I should say “primitive anthropology”) while discussing the predicament of such communities as the Sentinelese people.” Some readers wanted to know what was wrong in the use of the term.
Nomenclature is a political act. There has been effective criticism against the term ‘tribal’ from Africa, for instance. Anthropologist Michael Olen wrote: “The term tribe has never satisfied anthropologists, because of its many uses and connotations. Societies that are classified as tribal seem to be very diverse in their organisation, having little in common.” Some scholars argue that if the term ‘tribe’ accurately conveys and clarifies truths better than other words, even if they are hard and unpleasant truths, we should use it. But some also contend that the term is vague and confusing.
How can journalists describe a group of people who have been officially categorised using objectionable words is the question. The Government of India has categorised the Sentinelese as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups” along with the Onges, the Jarawas, the Great Andamanese and the Shompens of the Great Nicobar. This is a progressive change from its earlier classification of them as “Primitive Tribal Groups”. In the case of Africa, given its strong anti-apartheid struggle, the term ‘tribe’ has given way to different words such as ethnic group, nation, people, community, chiefdom, kin group and village with the focus on empirical accuracy and intellectual honesty. We need to interrogate some words for their pejorative connotations. Journalism does not have answers to many questions. But unlike the ostrich-like responses from the Silicon Valley giants, it grapples with contentious issues.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands: home to a tenth of India’s fauna species
The islands, comprising only 0.25% of country’s geographical area, has 11,009 species, according to a publication by the Zoological Survey of India
The Narcondam hornbill, its habitat restricted to a lone island; the Nicobar megapode, a bird that builds nests on the ground; the Nicobar treeshrew, a small mole-like mammal; the Long-tailed Nicobar macaque, and the Andaman day gecko, are among the 1,067 endemic faunal species found only on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and nowhere else.
A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India has for the first time come up with a database of all faunal species found on the island, putting the number at 11,009. The documentation proves that the islands, comprising only 0.25% of India’s geographical area, are home to more than 10% of the country’s fauna species.
Note of caution
The publication, however, also cautions that tourism, illegal construction and mining are posing a threat to the islands’ biodiversity, which is already vulnerable to volatile climatic factors.
“The presence of a large number of species in such a small area makes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity hot spots in India. Some of the species in A&N Islands are restricted to a very small area and thus more vulnerable to any anthropogenic threat,” Kailash Chandra, Director-ZSI, and one of the authors of the publication, said.
The total area of the A&N Islands, which comprises of 572 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, is about 8,249 sq. km. The population of the islands, which includes six particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) — Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, Sentinelese, Nicobarese and Shompens — is not more than 4 lakh. The number of tourists visiting the islands has crossed the number of people residing in them, with latest data showing 4.87 lakh tourists visiting the islands annually.
In a recent development, the Government of India relaxed the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) norms for some foreign nationalities notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, to visit 29 of its inhabited islands, till December 31, 2022. This has triggered further concerns of increased anthropogenic pressures over the islands’ ecosystem.
Pankaj Sekhsaria, Senior Project Scientist, DST-Centre for Policy Research, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi, who has written extensively about the islands, said that some of the islands opened up for tourists are very difficult to access for a day visit.
Restricted Area Permit
Some of the islands removed from the RAP list have no habitation except PVTG like Sentinelese in case of North Sentinel Island, and there is nothing other than a police outpost on the Narcondam Island, Dr. Sekhsaria pointed out.
“The development paradigm that we are pushing for this place at the macro level, such as tourism, construction and development of military, are not taking in account three factors — ecological fragility of the area (the endemism), geological volatility (earthquakes and tsunamis), and the impact they will have on local communities,” he said.
The publication, running across 49 chapters and 500 pages, not only prepares a database of species found in particular category of animals, but also highlights the most vulnerable among them. Of the ten species of marine fauna found on the islands, the dugong/sea cow, and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, are both classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.
Among the 46 terrestrial mammalian species found, three species have been categorised as Critically Endangered — Andaman shrew ( Crocidura andamanensis ), Jenkin’s shrew ( C. jenkinsi ) and Nicobar shrew ( C. nicobarica ). Five species are listed as Endangered, nine species as Vulnerable, and one species as Near Threatened, according to the IUCN.
Among birds, endemism is quite high, with 36 among 344 species of birds found only on the islands. Many of these bird species are placed in the IUCN Red List of threatened species under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA).
Similarly, eight species of amphibians and 23 species of reptiles are endemic to the islands, and thus are at high risk of being threatened.
Another unique feature of the islands’ ecosystem is its marine faunal diversity, which includes coral reefs and its associated fauna. In all, 555 species of scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found in the island ecosystem, all which are placed under Schedule I of the WPA.
The dugong and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, are classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List
Egypt unveils ancient tomb and sarcophagi
Dates back to more than 3,000 years
Egyptian authorities on Saturday unveiled a well-preserved mummy of a woman inside a previously unopened coffin in Luxor in southern Egypt dating back to more than 3,000 years.
The sarcophagus, an ancient coffin, was one of two found earlier this month by a French-led mission in the northern area of El-Asasef, a necropolis on the western bank of the Nile. The first one had been opened earlier and examined by Egyptian antiquities officials.
“One sarcophagus was rishi-style, which dates back to the 17th dynasty, while the other sarcophagus was from the 18th dynasty,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al Anani said.
“The two tombs were present with their mummies inside.”
The Eighteenth Dynasty dates back to the 13th century BC, a period noted for some of the most well known Pharaohs, including Tutankhamen and Ramses II.
It was the first known time that authorities had opened a previously unopened sarcophagus before international media.
Earlier in the day, authorities also revealed in the same area the tomb of the overseer of the mummification shrine identified as Thaw-Irkhet-if.
The tomb contained five coloured masks and some 1,000 Ushabti statutes — the miniature figurine of servants to serve the dead in the afterlife.
Three-hundred meters of rubble were removed over five months to uncover the tomb, which contained coloured ceiling paintings depicting the owner and his family.
The tomb, which also contains mummies, skeletons and skulls, dates back to the middle-kingdom almost 4,000 years ago, but was reused during the late period.
Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings.
Egypt has revealed over a dozen ancient discoveries since the beginning of this year.
The country hopes these discoveries will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers who once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids.