MEET THE INDIAN-AMERICAN AT CENTRE OF US MOVE TO REPEAL NET NEUTRALITY RULES

The article originally appeared on India Today on 15 December.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom regulator of the United States of America, has repealed a landmark law the country passed in 2015 to ensure net neutrality in the US and Ajit Pai, a son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the debate. He heads the US FCC.

Pai is a Republican, the same party as American President Donald J Trump, and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump administration took over the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has voted in favour of repealing a 2015 law enacted by itself under the Barack Obama government. The FCC is overseen by the US Congressional chairs and currently, like the US Congress (the American equivalent of Parliament), the Republicans are in majority in the FCC, a fact that helped the proposal moved by Pai score a 3-2 victory. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by then president Barack Obama.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical (sic) of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying repealing the net neutrality law will kill the spirit of free internet.

Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. Opponents of the repeal bill, named Restoring Internet Freedom Order, say it will effectively shut down or marginalise small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to disadvantage a rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, internet users will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to all content and data gone, the critics add. Net neutrality, they say, ensures that no service provider will speed up or throttle a particular service because of its business interests.

IN INDIA

India has also been through this important debate. The country saw a major controversy over services such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were alleged to be discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of a particiular telecom company or internet service provider (ISP).

Citizens here were up in arms over this and a public outcry forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations on building a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And, its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principles of net neutrality in recommendations it released last month.

Ajit Pai’s move is threatening to undo that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet. Pai’s move has also unnerved the internet’s founding fathers Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker.

They wrote an open letter to US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote yesterday. They called the repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the internet.

But Pai was unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement-one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York.

A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.

©SantoshChaubey

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‘SEVERE HEALTH IMPACTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE’: UN STUDY ON E-WASTE CRISIS IN INDIA

A new United Nations study has painted a grim picture for India on e-waste management. The study, Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), says as India’s e-waste recycling operations are mostly in the informal sector, it is beset with severe health impacts and causes widespread environmental damage.

India’s formal e-waste recycling industry is still non-existent and the country is dotted with manual recycling operations in the informal sector. Over a million employed here are basically poor people with either no or very low literacy levels. They are either unaware of the hazardous consequences of the work they do or are forced to do their job because they have no other option, the study says.

India’s electronics industry is among the fastest growing in the world and is expected to become a $400 Billion industry by 2020 with a CAGR of 41 per cent during 2017-2020 says a study by ASSOCHAM and NEC Technologies.

That makes India one of the largest producers of e-waste. A 2016 study by ASSOCHAM-KPMG says India’s is the world’s fifth largest e-waste producer generating 18.5 lakh tonnes of discarded electronic waste annually. In Asia, India is third behind China and Japan. According to the UN study, China is Asia’s and the world’s top e-waste generating country producing 7.2 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2016. Japan was second in Asia producing 2.1 MMT of e-waste while India came a close third with 2 MMT e-waste generated in 2016, an assessment that is in sync with the ASSOCHAM-KPMG study.

And it is mostly driven by advances made in telecommunication as around 54 per cent households globally have internet access now. Couple this with the 7.7 billion mobile wireless subscriptions as tallied by Statista, an online research and business intelligence firm and the problem looks critical. The figure tells there are more mobile phones today than the overall global population of 7.44 Billion at the moment. Another assessment by eMarketer says the smartphone penetration globally is to reach to 2.39 Billion this year. All this is going to produce heaps of e-waste as we move to a more digitally connected world.

Due toeEver declining technology and hardware prices, mainly in the telecommunication sector like the mobile phones, computers, computer peripherals and other IT equipment, coupled with decrease in price of services, in voice and internet, the e-waste is expected to increase manifold in India and the world in years ahead. This is in addition to other e-waste from discarded products like televisions, refrigerators, air-conditioners and electronic toys. Such electronic waste, with a battery or plug, is a major health hazard and environment threat the UN warns. They have high levels of poisonous elements like lead, cadmium and mercury.

Reflecting India’s position as the world second largest telecom market which is also the fastest growing one, almost 70 per cent of the country’s electronic waste comes from discarded computer equipment whereas the telecom equipment constitutes 12 per cent of our annual electronic waste. But mobile phones and smartphones are a fast growing category here as almost 25 crore of mobile handsets, or 25 per cent of over 100 crore user base, end up in e-waste each year. Overall, India’s electronic waste is growing 30 per cent annually.

Though India had enacted law to regulate e-waste management in the country in 2011 and made further amendments in it in 2015 to cover producers, it is still a long way to go before a well-laid out mechanism can be put in place given the fact that almost 95 per cent of e-waste collection and handling in the country is done by the informal sector. For the record, the amended e-waste management rule requires producers to collect 30 per cent e-waste generated initially and it will subsequently go up to the level of 70 per cent by the seventh year.

In addition to this, India also imports e-waste from other countries and it makes the crisis even more serious. According to another ASSOCHAM report, India has become a dumping ground for e-waste from developed countries and what should be eye-opening is the fact that 85 per cent of this hazardous waste ends up in the country’s capital and its adjoining areas, Delhi-NCR. The study projected Delhi’s annual e-waste to increase by a whopping 40,000 MT in a year, from 68,000 MT in 2016 to 1,07,000 MT in 2017.

Globally, e-waste generated increased by 8 per cent or 3.3 MMT to 44.7 MMT from its 2014 level and with a more digitally connected and ICT dependent world, the UN study projects it to increase by 17 per cent to reach to the level of 52.2 MMT by 2021.

And only 20 per cent of it or 8.9 MMT of it could be recycled in 2016. But the situation is horrible in India where, according to an ASSOCHAM-cKinetics study released on the World Environment Day last year, just 1.5 per cent of e-waste generated could be recycled. The study cited poor infrastructure and inefficient regulatory framework as the main reasons behind this poor state of affairs that is fast emerging as an health and environmental crisis in the country.

©SantoshChaubey

TONS OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS NEXT LEVEL OF NORTH KOREAN THREAT?

The article originally appeared on India Today on 12 December.

“Microbes by ton”, that is how a Washington Post story describes the bioweapons threat from North Korea, the rogue regime that has recently acquired Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and has declared itself a nuclear power after claimed detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

But if the assessments of US and Asian intelligence officials are true, as the Washington Post and other stories on the subject in the global media quote, then a whole new chapter in North Korean threat to the world is about to begin, in extension of its regular warnings of launching nuclear attacks.

“North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification,” the Post story writes.

There have long been speculation about North Korea developing weapons of biological warfare, after the country established in 1980s a biological weapons programme under Kim Il-Sung, current dictator Kim Jong-un’s father, but it never went beyond pathogens like smallpox and anthrax and even now there is no hard evidence to prove it.

But the way North Korea is moving these days, sending its scientists abroad to study advanced microbiology and acquiring machinery that can be used to produce biological weapons at large scale, analysts says “North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so.”

And the most horrible part of it, the intelligence agencies spying on North Korea may not find if North Korea actually has started producing biological weapons at military scale as they suspect North Korea is using civilian factories to conceal its programme. “If it started tomorrow we might not know it, unless we’re lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place,” the Post story writes quoting an official.

Experts say genetic engineering to produce even more virulent strains of microbes or germs is another scientific breakthrough that North Korea might have been trying. According to a study, North Korea’s Biological Weapons Program, released in October by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, North Korean and Chinese scientists jointly published a research paper in 2016 on producing new species of bacteria through genetic engineering.

Though the research paper writes that it is “it is highly unlikely that the typing of these genomes will provide know-how for biological weapons development effort,” the Post story says it is evidence of North Korea’s ambition to acquire cutting edge genetic and microbiological sciences. The ambition raises a valid doubt that it may be used to create even more potent germs, especially when North Korea’s proven ability and credentials to carry out such advanced scientific research have been limited so far. Attempts to produce such super-germs is not new and met with mixed success during the cold war era.

An analysis by Amplyfi, an artificial intelligence company, on North Korean efforts to acquire advanced genetic and biotech capabilities, in fact, has shown that search on topics like “gene expression” and “nucleic acid sequence” from North Korea has gone up voluminously in the last two years.

The Post report writes quoting Amplyfi co-founder Chris Ganje “There are worrying indicators of unintended support and it is obvious that the international community and larger institutions need to be cautious in providing seemingly benign academic scientific education and training to North Korea,” as to circumvent international monitoring, North Korea is trying to gain technological insights from academic institutions, NGOs and private organizations.

South Korea has warned in past that it may launch biological attack thorough its special operations forces (SOF), a Rand Corporation paper, The Challenge of North Korean Biological Weapons, says.

The paper that details submission before the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the United States House of Representatives in October 2013 writes, “Indeed, North Korea special forces are a likely means for delivering North Korean biological weapons. North Korea has some 200,000 special forces, a small fraction of which could deliver devastating biological attacks against South Korea, Japan, and even the United States.”

©SantoshChaubey

INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS CALL ON US CONGRESS TO SAVE INTERNET FROM TRUMP’S MAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, the founding fathers of the Internet, have written to the US Congress to save the Internet from the disastrous consequences of a proposed repeal of a Barack Obama era law on net neutrality that ensured level playing field for all content and every sort of data by ensuring stiff regulations for the Internet service providers (ISPs).

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Barack Obama presidency, had adopted the net neutrality rules in February 2015 and enacted it in a law in June that year. The law gave the US government sweeping power over the network providers to check the discriminatory practices with the content flowing through their channels.

Here, in India, we are going through the grinding of that process and thankfully, after over a year of consultation papers, public comments and meetings, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last month decided to uphold the supremacy of net neutrality in India.

Now Ajit Pai, son of Indian immigrants and a Republican, who was made the FCC chief by US President Donald Trump in January 2017, is bringing a repeal proposal to that landmark law which is scheduled for voting on December 14.

But the reports that the proposed repeal plan is expected to be approved have worried the proponents of a free internet accessible for all, and the letter by the founding fathers of the Internet reflects that sentiment.

The letter addressed to the Democratic and Republican chairs that control the FCC says that “the FCC’s proposed order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology” terming the proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order an imminent threat to the Internet, “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to repeal net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.”

The letter has urged to US lawmakers to cancel the proposed vote. The open letter that is signed by 19 other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Internet Achieves founder Brewster Kahle, alleges the FCC headed by Pai is acting in haste ignoring exerts’ comments, over 23 million pro net neutrality comments by public and against the established practice, has not held even a single public meeting to discuss its proposed repeal order.

The open letter also alleges that the FCC didn’t bother to investigate and explain to people the flaws of its online comment system “including bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.”

BELOW IS THE TEXT OF THE OPEN LETTER SIGNED BY THE INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS AND PIONEERS:

We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order (WC Docket No. 17-108 ).

This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers. The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.

It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017. Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.

The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately.

Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.

Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.

Compounding our concern, the FCC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about these incidents and failed to provide information to a New York State Attorney General’s investigation of them. We therefore call on you to urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote. The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.

Signed,

Frederick J. Baker, IETF Chair 1996-2001, ISOC Board Chair 2002-2006
Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Internet pioneer, FTC Chief Technologist, 2012-2013
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web & professor, MIT
John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks
Scott O. Bradner, Internet pioneer
Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer
Stephen D. Crocker, Internet pioneer
Whitfield Diffie, inventor of public-key cryptography
David J. Farber, Internet pioneer, FCC Chief Technologist 1999-2000
Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access
Martin E. Hellman, Internet security pioneer
Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer, founder, Internet Archive
Susan Landau, cybersecurity expert & professor, Tufts University
Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext pioneer
David P. Reed, Internet pioneer
Jennifer Rexford, Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
Ronald L. Rivest, co-inventor of RSA public-key encryption algorithm
Paul Vixie, Internet pioneer
Stephen Wolff, Internet pioneer
Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer

©SantoshChaubey

OMAR BIN KHETAB, NO 2 OF AL-QAEDA IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

The article originally appeared on India Today on 7 December. 

Omar bin Khetab, the second-in-command of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has been killed in a joint operation by Afghan intelligence and the US military.

Not much information is available about the terrorist – apart from some sketchy details – but the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) called him the seniormost Al Qaeda leader killed in Afghanistan since 2001, when Taliban was driven out of the country.

A NATO release on Khetab’s elimination described him as an expert in heavy weapons and explosives, who trained the Taliban for night attacks.

Also known as Omar Mansoor, Khetab was killed in the Gilan district in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, the Washington Post reported. He was in his early 40s, and came from the restive tribal regions of Pakistan, the report said.

A 2016 UN report put the AQIS operatives’ count in Afghanistan at 300, and said they mainly came from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and India. The same report said Khetab handled AQIS operations in the east of Waziristan.

Courtesy: Tolo News

80 more Al Qaeda terrorists were killed along with him, including the top three al-Qaeda leaders in the country. Those who were killed included “Qasim, Hassan Hamza, Jonaid and Mustafa, military head of al-Qaeda, three Punjabi Taliban and two local Taliban fighters”, Tolo News reported quoting the NDS.

Air and military operations were conducted in the past few weeks in Ghazni, Paktia and Zabul provinces of Afghanistan. Details of the operations have not been released yet.

Courtesy: Tolo News

AQIS TRYING TO MAKE PRESENCE FELT IN INDIA

The AQIS has virtually been non-existent so far in India and is trying to make its presence felt in the country. It recently named former Hizbul terrorist Zikar Rashid Bhat – alias Zakir Musa – the chief of its India unit Ansar Ghawzat-Ul-Hind. Before that, in June, AQIS had released a new code of conduct for its members and other terrorists who wanted to show allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In a tape released in August, Al Qaeda chief Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri confirmed that slain Al Qaeda commander Abu Dujana al Pasha was the main driving force behind the formation of AQIS as he “united several jihadi groups belonging to the Indian Subcontinent”.

Abu Dujana al Pasha, who was also known as Abu Dujana al Basha, was the son-in-law of Zawahiri and played a key role in Al Qaeda’s terror operations. Reports say he was known as the “hidden commander” in Al Qaeda, because though he was relatively unknown to the outside world, he worked hard to establish AQIS. The US had declared him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2009.

Zawahiri had announced the formation of the AQIS in a video message in September 2014. Though it was widely reported that al Pasha was killed in a US drone strike, Al Qaeda never accepted it.

©SantoshChaubey

SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY MAY WANT INDIA TO MOVE ITS EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM BUT MAHATMA GANDHI WAS EVEN AGAINST FORCED SETTLEMENT OF ISRAELIS IN PALESTINE

Subramamian Swamy may demand India to follow the United States and move its embassy to Jerusalem but it is against India’s principled stand of solidarity with the Palestinian cause that was against the forced settlement of Israelis in the Palestinian territory. Like the whole issue of Israeli settlement in Palestine, the issue of sovereign claims over Jerusalem, too, has been a contentious issue as the city is the ancient seat of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The origin behind this principled stand can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of the Nation, who believed that Israelis could settle in Palestine only with the permission from Arabs and it was wrong for them to enter with the might of the British gun.

Writing in Harijan on November 26, 1938, Mahatma Gandhi says that his sympathies are with the Jews some of whom have been his friends since his days in South Africa. Thus, he knows about the age-long persecution of the Jews. He refers to the Jews as the untouchables of Christianity, like the untouchables of Hinduism and that religion is used in their persecution, as was happening then with the Jews in Germany.

But, he draws a line here saying his sympathy for the Jews cannot blind him to the requirements of justice.

He says in his write-up, The Jews, in Harijan, “The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me.” He says that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French and it is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.”

Mahatma Gandhi says the settlement of the Jews in the Palestinian territory is akin to a religious act that rules out use of force, “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.”

In this article written in 1938, before the organized massacre of the Jews in the German concentration camps began, Mahatma Gandhi argues that the Jewish people are the citizens of the world and they should be treated as such, a Jew born in France as French, a Jew born in Germany as German. He advises the German Jews to use the civil movement through non-violence to take on the German persecution.

Though, we can see a change in approach in the later writings of Mahatma Gandhi on German persecution of the Jews after the German concentration camps massacred millions of Jews, his stand on Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land remains the same.

In another Harijan article titled “Jews and Palestine”, written on July 21, 1946, after the Second World War and the German massacre of the Jews were over, he says, “I do believe that the Jews have been cruelly wronged by the world. “Ghetto” is, so far as I am aware, the name given to Jewish locations in many parts of Europe. But for their heartless persecution, probably no question of return to Palestine would ever have arisen. The world should have been their home, if only for the sake of their distinguished contribution to it.”

But in the next paragraph, he reiterates his long held stand on the forced Jewish occupation of the Palestinian land, “But, in my opinion, they have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism.”

And he held this view on the Palestine-Israel problem till his death, blaming Christianity for singling out and wronging the Jews, “Their citizenship of the world should have and would have made them honoured guests of any country. Their thrift, their varied talent, their great industry should have made them welcome anywhere. It is a blot on the Christian world that they have been singled out, owing to a wrong reading of the New Testament, for prejudice against them. If an individual Jew does a wrong, the whole Jewish world is to blame for it. If an individual Jew like Einstein makes a great discovery or another composes unsurpassable music, the merit goes to the authors and not to the community to which they belong.”

JERUSALEM CLAIMS

Swamy, the senior BJP leader, tweeted last night, hours after US President Donald Trump made his formal announcement to move US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “Israel has international recognition of a part of Jerusalem as its territory; hence India should shift its Embassy to this part of the city.”

But the contention is about East Jerusalem that houses Islam’s third holiest shrine Al Aqsa mosque and Palestine and the whole Muslim world see Jerusalem as Palestine capital. While West Jerusalem has been Israel’s seat of government, it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967’s Six Day War.

Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has created outrage in the Muslim world amid the global concern that it will disturb status-quo in one of the most dangerous conflict theatres of the world where escalating tension may easily give way to a larger war involving many countries.

The issue has been so sensitive that almost no country so far had recognized Israel’s sovereign claim over Jerusalem and the global consensus has been that the issue must be resolved through negotiation between Israel and Palestine. Even the previous US presidents recognized it and that is why none of them thought to cross the line even if the US Congress had enacted a law in 1995, Jerusalem Embassy Act, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and had decided to move its Embassy there. The UN has also condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem through the UN Security Council Resolution 478.

INDIA’S STAND

India’s has reacted cautiously on the development, “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.”

In fact, if it took 45 years after the independence for India to allow Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, as it always tried to maintain balance between its principled stand on Palestine and its geopolitical concerns that Israel could have addressed. India and Israel established full diplomatic ties on January 29, 1992 but it took another 25 years for India’s first ever prime ministerial visit to the nation in July this year. In these 25 years, Israel has emerged as India’s most reliable defence partner and India as Israel’s largest defence market, accounting for 41 per cent of its arms export.

©SantoshChaubey

TRUMP’S JERUSALEM DECLARATION: AL QAEDA, ISIS THREATEN BLOODBATH

Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) have threatened attacks on US for its decision to shift its Israel Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While ISIS warning says it is coming to liberate Al-Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem) and will unleash bloodbath, pro Al Qaeda channels appeals Muslims that “demonstrations must be followed by explosions and civil disobedience by military anger killing those of the crusaders we find on our land and destroy the western interests until they stop supporting Israel.”

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump had announced that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and today he made its formal declaration. The decision has created outrage in the Muslim world amid the global concern that it will disturb status-quo in one of the most dangerous conflict theatres of the world where escalating tension may easily give way to a larger war involving many countries. If Israel considers Jerusalem its holiest shrine, the Muslim world also views the historical city as the third holiest shrine of Islam and the Palestinians consider East Jerusalem that houses Al Aqsa mosque as their capital. The terror warnings say the whole of Jerusalem in Palestine’s capital and assert that “O Aqsa, we are coming to liberate you.”

The issue has been so sensitive that almost no country so far had recognized Israel’s sovereign claim over Jerusalem and the global consensus has been that the issue must be resolved through negotiation between Israel and Palestine. Even the previous US presidents recognized it and that is why none of them thought to cross the line even if the US Congress had enacted a law in 1995 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and had decided to move its Embassy there. The UN has also condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem through the UN Security Council Resolution 478.

The Trump’s announcement has breached that global consensus. And while he may have been able to fulfil one of his campaign promise with this announcement, there are fears of its immediate aftermath that it will become rallying point for jihadists and terror groups from across the world and these warnings from ISIS and Al Qaeda only confirm it.

Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intel Group, a US based terror monitor agency, has posted the terror threats on her Twitter handle. She says “the jihadists are capitalizing on the possibility of the US moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and warns that the world should expect to see a long, ongoing campaign by jihadists about the move.” While pro ISIS channels have posted warnings and graphics in English, Arabic and Hebrew in line with the ISIS propaganda practices, the Al Qaeda channels are exhorting Muslims to come forward with comments of Osama bin Laden and other leaders on Palestine.

Rita Katz‏ @Rita_Katz
1. Both AQ & ISIS supporters threatening attacks as US prepares to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. One pro-ISIS Telegram channel posted graphics of Aqsa Mosque, warning in Arabic, Hebrew and English: We will cut off your heads and we will liberate Jerusalem from you.”

2. Jihadists are capitalizing on the possibility of the US moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, insisting: “All of al-Quds is the capital of Palestine”, posting threats, graphics, jihadi leadership statements, and documents.

3) Likewise, pro-AQ channels disseminating statements by leaders like slain AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, instructing to “kill those of the Crusaders we find on our land, and destroy the Western interests” until they stop supporting Israel.

4) We should expect to see a long, ongoing campaign by jihadists about the move of the US capital in Israel to Jerusalem, including warnings and threats by jihadi leaders, as the matter is a major rallying point within the global jihadi movement across ISIS/AQ lines.

©SantoshChaubey

BELT AND ROAD GOING OFF-ROAD? PAKISTAN, NEPAL AND MYANMAR CANCEL AGREEMENTS WITH CHINA

Though reports made headlines yesterday that China had stopped funding of three major China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) road projects in Pakistan citing corruption as the reason, there are more worrying signs ahead for whole One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR), also known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious plan to establish global hegemony by building economic corridors linking Asia, Europe and Africa. The CPEC, a long term $75 billion project from Gwadar port in Balochistan to Kashgar China’s Xinjiang province, is just a part of it.

According to a report in Voice of America (VOA), in recent weeks, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have either put on hold or cancelled major hydroelectric projects worth $20 Billion.

Last month, Pakistan withdrew Diamer-Bhasha Dam project from the CPEC as it found the lending conditions imposed by the Chinese consortium too tough. The dam is a $14 Billion project to be built on the Indus River in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Pakistan has now decided to fund it through local resources.

The proposed Daimer-Bhasha dam is a controversial project as it lies in Gilgit-Baltistan, part of PoK that India considers its own and for that very reason, agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to fund it. India is also opposed to the CPEC for the very same reason as it passes through PoK. For strategic reasons also, India doesn’t welcome a Chinese presence just across the border in a disputed territory that is legally India’s.

Similarly Nepal, on November 13, cancelled the agreement with a Chinese state firm for the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project citing corruption. The $2.5 Billion project was signed recklessly and shadily, Nepal said while cancelling the deal that was supposed to make it a BRI project. Nepal too, like Pakistan, is going to fund the project internally.

In case of Myanmar, the Myitsone dam project is a classic example to see China’s hegemonic designs.

The $3.6 billion dam project was financed by China. Built on the Irrawaddy River, the project was doomed from the beginning. After being in making for years, the project was suspended in September 2011 amid democratic reforms as the Burmese Junta government had taken a unilateral decision to allow the controversial project that was expected to bring cultural, environmental and sociological disaster for Myanmar and its people. The ethnic Burman majority of Myanmar is against any dam on the Irrawaddy River as it traces its roots of civilization there.

Add to it the cunning Chinese business model. The project was sold saying the electricity it would produce, 90 per cent of it would be sold to China while 10 per cent was to be given free to Myanmar. Being a power starved country, protests were held against it in Myanmar. Under pressure, China later said Myanmar was the primary market and rest was to be exported. That was when Myanmar is among the countries with lowest electrification rate and no grid structure to connect its cities and town. A World Bank report says only 33 per cent of the country’s population has an electricity connection.

And China has tried this junked project that has displaced thousands of people to leverage its position in Myanmar or we can say, to blackmail the Myanmarese government as it would have to give China back a huge compensation, or the way China wants it, i.e., “concessions on other strategic opportunities in Myanmar”, Reuters report says. The Myanmarese experience has been so bad here that the country has declared that it would not go for big hydroelectric dams in future even if it is power starved.

PUMPING MONEY THE CHINESE WAY

China is pumping huge sums of money in projects that fit in the Chinese narrative of its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative albeit, at much higher interest rates. Critics of the BRI say the Chinese design is simple, lend in huge sums to the financially weaker countries in need and then blackmail them when they fail to pay back.

If the international line of credit by different organizations or countries for soft loans ranges from 0.1 per cent to 3 per cent, the Chinese lenders charge anything above 6 per cent. In 2015, Japan sanctioned a loan amount of $50 billion with interest rate of 0.1 per cent and a repayment period of 50 years for India’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor.

India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing through BRI are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors, is offering these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China goes on to acquire controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

The growing consensus about Chinese designs on the BRI was aptly summed up in a Quartz analysis, “While most countries along the Belt and Road initiative welcome foreign investment and assistance in building modern infrastructure, the pressure being exercised by Beijing doesn’t always go down well. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese cash are starting to realize that when all is done and dusted, the infrastructure that is built is likely to end up controlled by China.”

©SantoshChaubey

AFTER HIGHLIGHTING WHY ROY MOORE SHOULD WIN, TRUMP EXHORTS HIM TO ‘GO, GET DEMOCRATS’

Hours after his strongest defense of Roy Moore yet, the controversial Republican nominee for the United States Senate election who has even been refuted by many Republicans, US President Donald Trump formally endorsed him in a phone call, pushing the Republican National Committee (RNC) to resume campaign ties with Moore which it had severed last month after allegations by many women that Moore sexually abused them when they were minors.

Trump’s formal endorsement of Roy Moore extended the line of strong views on why he was supporting Moore. Trump exhorted Moore to ‘go, get them (his Democratic rivals)’ after letting America, the world and Moore’s Republican critics know why a Moore victory was a crisis issue for Trump and his party (the Republican Party).

Linking Moore’s victory to the successful implementation of the Republican agenda in the US Congress, Trump highlighted that how the refusal of the Democrats was obstructing the passage of many Republican legislative reforms including the new US tax code. The Republic tax code has divided the US society with many strongly disapproving it. Democrats are calling it a scam that would benefit only wealthy Americans and corporations. “Democrats’ refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, border wall, military, pro life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more,” Trump wrote on Twitter highlighting the Republican legislative agenda.

Targetting the Democrat nominee Doug Jones, a former attorney, Trump called him a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the minority leaders in the US Congress. “Putting Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Puppet Jones into office in Alabama would hurt our great Republican Agenda of low on taxes, tough on crime, strong on military and borders…and so much more. Look at your 401-k’s since Election. Highest Stock Market ever! Jobs are roaring back!” Trump wrote further on Twitter.

Roy Moore is former chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. His life and career have been controversial and it is not just these sexual abuse allegations that he has vehemently denied. He was who was removed twice from his position of chief justice for abusing his position to take contrary positions from established judicial norms. Trump has defended Moore to garner more numbers in the US Congress to support his agenda that even many Republican don’t follow. For the record, he says as Moore has denied all allegations against him and nothing has been proved, so there is no case.

Moore, who is nicknamed ‘The Ten Commandments Judge’ for installing a Ten Commandment granite monument in a judicial building for which he was punished, is a hardliner like Trump whose first indication on supporting Moore was the statement that “we don’t need liberals there (in the US Congress). Moore says the US Congress should not have Muslim members and calls homosexuality illegal despite the US Supreme Court making it legal a long back. The Senate election from Alabama is due on December 12 and was necessitated after resignation of Jeff Sessions in February this year after he was appointed US Attorney General by Trump.

©SantoshChaubey

TRUMP BATS FOR ROY MOORE, IN HIS STRONGEST DEFENSE YET

In his strongest defense yet of Roy Moore, the controversial Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Alabama, US President Donald Trump has linked the victory of Moore to successful implementation of the Republican agenda.

Tying Moore’s election from the state, represented by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier, with numbers game in the US Congress, Trump highlighted that how the refusal of the Democrats was obstructing the passage of the new US tax code that Republican consider a sweeping reform. The Republic tax code has divided the US society with many strongly disapproving it. Democrats are calling it a scam that would benefit only wealthy Americans and corporations.

With the Senate passing the new US tax code this Friday, both chambers of the US Congress, including the House, have passed the legislation that intends to introduce sweeping structural reforms to the taxation practices in the US. The legislation will also be the first major legislative victory for the Republicans who have failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, their long-term agenda and one of the main campaign promises, despite their numerical dominance in the US Congress, indicating that their own house is not in order.

Batting for Moore, former chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and a controversial figure who was removed twice from his position and who is also facing allegations of being involved in sexual abuse on minor girls, Trump targeted the Democrat nominee Doug Jones, a former attorney, without naming him. He called him a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the minority leaders in the US Congress, whose election would further hurt the Republican agenda of introducing measures on lowering taxes, tougher laws on crime, stopping illegal immigration, strengthening military and defending the US borders.

Trump has defended Moore to garner more numbers in the US Congress to support his agenda that even many Republican don’t follow. For the record, he says as Moore has denied all allegations against him and nothing has been proved, so there is no case.

Moore, who is nicknamed ‘The Ten Commandments Judge’ for installing a Ten Commandment granite monument in a judicial building for which he was punished, is a hardliner like Trump who endorsed his nomination saying “we don’t need liberals there (in the US Congress). Moore says the US Congress should not have Muslim members and calls homosexuality illegal despite the US Supreme Court making it legal a long back and says.

The Senate election from Alabama is due on December 12 and was necessitated after resignation of Sessions in February this year after he was appointed US Attorney General by Trump.

©SantoshChaubey