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India’s plan to build military base in Seychelles stirs controversy

Monitor News Bureau

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Victoria (Seychelles) :A plan for India to build a military base on an outlying Seychelles island has won favour among the archipelago nation’s politicians, but some hostility from its people.
The base on Assumption Island is to be funded by India and shared by the two countries’ militaries.
The deal was struck in principle in 2015 during a visit to the Seychelles by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but progress since has been slow.
The government of the Seychelles, based in Victoria on Mahe Island 1,135 kilometres (705 miles) northeast of Assumption, says the base will help coastguards to patrol its 1.3 million square kilometre (500,000 square mile) exclusive economic zone for illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy.
Currently, the remote coral island has a tin shack post office, an air strip and almost no people, it is less than seven kilometres long, has a high point just 30 metres (100 feet) above sea level and is covered in bird excrement.
But its location lends it strategic importance for monitoring shipping in the Mozambique Channel.
India plans to invest $550 million dollars in building the base to help it ensure the safety of its vessels in the southern Indian Ocean. It also says the base will be a resource for other shipping nations.
“Assumption is very close to the Mozambique Channel where much of the international trade is transiting, and not just for India but for other countries as well, and our interest is that our trading vessels are safe,” said India’s ambassador in Victoria, Ausaf Sayeed.
India has had a military cooperation agreement with the Seychelles since 2003 and the deal would give it use of the Assumption base for up to 30 years. Indian soldiers would be deployed on the island and help train Seychelles’ troops.
But ratification of the 2015 agreement has been slow with a new, amended pact only signed between the two countries on January 27.
“What we did in relation to the first agreement is to clarify some points that could give rise to litigation,” said Frank Ally, the Seychelles’ attorney general.
He said these included a prohibition on any nuclear uses of the island or weapons storage. India is also not allowed to use Assumption in war.
Seeking to allay fears the government has made available to the public some details of the classified defence agreement.
Nevertheless, the project remains controversial with small weekly demonstrations in the capital.
Indian presence in the Seychelles is a sensitive matter. Some fear an influx of Indian workers who, they say, might come to dominate the economy, while others consider a foreign power building a military base an affront to sovereignty and national pride.
“The Seychelles can make its own military base, I am against any foreign military presence!” said Guilmert Corgat, a businessman in Victoria who attended a town hall meeting on the plan in late February.
“If this deal is so good for the Seychelles, why don’t we hold a referendum?” asked Alexia Amesbury, a lawyer.
During the discussions foreign minister Barry Faure was forced to insist the government was not giving the island away, “because Assumption belongs to the Seychelles”.
Opponents of the plan also cite Assumption’s relative proximity to Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises.
Environmentalists worry about the possible impact of a large military presence so close to an ecosystem that has survived precisely because of the absence of people.
Despite the dissenting voices, Sayeed remains positive that parliament will ratify the new agreement when it reopens this month.
With the opposition, like the government, broadly in favour of the base, though against too many concessions to India, the diplomat’s optimism may be well-founded.
“I think politicians and people who see the positive side of this cooperation will be in favour, and I am convinced that it will pass,” he said.


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International

Sikhs third most targeted religious group in US after Jews, Muslims: FBI report

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New York, Nov 13: The Sikh community is the third most commonly targeted religious group after Jews and Muslims in the US, according to an annual report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), reported PTI.

According to a press release issued by the FBI, the 2018 data shows the largest number of hate crimes based on religion were reported against Jews (835), followed by Muslims (188) and Sikhs (60). There were 64 offences against Sikhs with 49 known offenders and 69 victims.

Another 91 hate crimes were reported against other religions, including 12 against Hindus and ten anti-Buddhist crimes.

 

The data, submitted by 16,039 law enforcement agencies, provides information about the crimes motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

In total, at least 7,120 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies across the US, slightly down from 7,175 in 2017, the report states.

Sikh Coalition, a New York-based think tank that defends Sikh civil rights, said in a statement that it remains a “disheartening” fact that hate crimes remain systematically underreported across the US.

“While hate crimes remained relatively steady nationally, reported anti-Sikh hate crimes rose by 200 percent since 2017, making Sikhs the third most commonly targeted religious group in the dataset,” it said.

“At the end of the day, this data simply isn’t giving us the accurate information we need to effectively counteract hate against targeted communities,” said Sim J Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy.

“It’s past time for action. Congress must pass the next generation of common-sense legislation that equips law enforcement to better identify and track hate incidents,” he said.

The FBI reports as many as 148 hate crimes against Asians in 2018, while those against Arabs were 82, anti-American Indian or Alaska Native (194).

According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, Americans experience an average of 250,000 hate crimes per year; this latest FBI data, by contrast, only managed to document 7,120 incidents, with less than 13 per cent of law enforcement affirmatively providing reports of hate crimes, it said.

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Pak allows Jadhav to file appeal in civilian court

Agencies

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New Delhi, Nov 13: New Delhi: Pakistan is amending its Army Act, under which former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav was sentenced to death, in keeping with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) direction to allow him the right to file an appeal in the civilian court.

News agency ANI quoted Pakistani media as saying on Wednesday that the act in its present form forbids individuals or groups being tried in military courts from filing an appeal in the civilian court, but special amendment was being made for Jadhav.

Jadhav, a retired Indian navy commander, was tried as a spy under the act by the Pakistani military after he was captured in 2016. India says that he was kidnapped by Pakistani agencies from Iran and brought to Pakistan. Pakistan had claimed that Jadhav was arrested from its restive province of Balochistan. It notified India about it through a press release on March 25, 2016, 22 days after he was picked up.

 

Jadhav, who hails from Powai in Mumbai, was subjected to an opaque military trial, which sentenced him to death on April 10, 2017, even as Pakistan government kept rejecting India’s repeated pleas for consular access.

The ICJ, which was moved by India on May 8, 2017, gave a detailed verdict this year, rejecting all the objections of Pakistan, including one unanimously on the admissibility of the case and also the claims by Islamabad that India had not provided the actual nationality of Jadhav.

In the judgment, the ICJ said that it was satisfied that Jadhav was an Indian national and that the fact had been acknowledged by both Pakistan and India.

The court, in its ruling by 15-1, ordered “a continued stay of execution” on Jadhav, saying it “constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence” of the accused.

It said it “finds that the appropriate reparation in this case consists in the obligation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to provide, by the means of its own choosing, effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, so as to ensure that full weight is given to the effect of the violation of the rights set forth” in the Vienna Convention on consular access.

Following the ICJ ruling, India was granted consular access to Jadhav on September 2 but Pakistan has refused to “share any further details” of the meeting between Jadhav and Indian Charge d’ Affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia in a Pakistani sub jail. It has since then ruled out a second consular meeting but the Ministry of External Affairs said it will keep making efforts to ensure the ICJ verdict is fully implemented. (Agencies)

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Pakistan exporting ‘terror’, stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains: India at UNSC

Press Trust of India

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UNITED NATIONS: India lashed out at Pakistan for raising the issue of women’s rights in Kashmir in the UN Security Council, saying the country represents a system that has been exporting militancy and “regressive” extremist ideologies and “stifling” women’s voices for narrow political gains.

India’s strong response came after Pakistan’s outgoing UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi commented on the situation in Kashmir, revocation of Article 370 and women’s rights in the Valley during the debate on October 29.

“As everyone today focuses on collective action, one delegation rhetorically regurgitates about women’s rights in my country,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said Monday at a Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security.

 

Without naming Pakistan, Tripathi said the delegation “represents a system that has been exporting terrorism and regressive extremist ideologies, and stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains. This has devastated lives of generations of women and their families, in our region and beyond.”

Alluding to Islamabad’s habit of raking up the Kashmir issue at various UN forums and committees, Tripathi said the country habitually makes baseless allegations without any relevance to the agenda under consideration and this has “become a staple for this delegation.”

She referred to Lodhi’s comments on Jammu and Kashmir during the October 29 debate as well as during a previous debate on the “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”.

Asserting that India firmly rejects the baseless allegations, Tripathi said “the Council has not paid attention to such deceitful narratives in the past, and we are confident that the Council will continue to do so, to ensure that its agenda is not used as a ploy for furthering territorial ambitions.”

In her remarks to the debate, Tripathi underscored that violence against women and girls perpetrated by terrorists remain rampant and subjugation of women in public and in private spheres continue across situations that are on the agenda of the Council.

“It is important that the Council strives to effectively integrate women, peace and security considerations into sanctions regimes, including by listing terrorist entities involved in violence against women in armed conflicts,” she said.

Further, Tripathi highlighted the positive impacts of greater participation of women in UN peacekeeping but voiced concern that women make up only 4.2 per cent of military personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.

“We ought to encourage participation of all women units to achieve the set targets in this regard,” she said.

Tripathi pointed out that a trend in which in order to accommodate those who cannot fulfill the commitments of providing all women units to peacekeeping missions, mixed units are being given preference by diluting the policy frameworks.

“If this continues, we possibly cannot achieve the set targets,” she said as she added that India remains committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers and has deployed a Female Engagement Team in UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) earlier this year.

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