India, Pakistan trade barbs over deadly Kashmir clash

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

India, Pakistan trade barbs over deadly Kashmir clash

Several soldiers and civilians killed on both sides, as India and Pakistan blame one another for ‘unprovoked’ firing.

Relatives and friends mourn next to bodies of victims in cross border shelling in Pakistan's Neelum valley [Sajjad Qayyum/AFP]
Relatives and friends mourn next to bodies of victims in cross border shelling in Pakistan’s Neelum valley [Sajjad Qayyum/AFP]

India and Pakistan blamed one another for cross-border shelling in the disputed Kashmir region which killed and injured soldiers and civilians on both sides and made it one of the deadliest days since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status in August.

India said there was heavy shelling by Pakistan across the border in northern Kashmir’s Tangdhar region late on Saturday night, killing two Indian soldiers and one civilian.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Armed Forces said one of its soldiers and three civilians had died and that India had violated the ceasefire.

There was an unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan, Indian defense spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

“Our troops retaliated strongly, causing heavy damage and casualties to the enemy,” Kalia said.

Pakistan’s army, meanwhile, claimed that India’s attacks in Jura, Shahkot and Nowshera sectors was “unprovoked” and deliberately targeted civilians.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistani Armed Forces, said Pakistan responded “effectively”, killing nine Indian soldiers, injuring several others and destroying two bunkers.

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@OfficialDGISPR

Indian unprovoked CFVs in Jura, shahkot & Nousehri Sectors deliberately targeting civilians. Effectively responded. 9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed.
During exchange of fire 1 soldier & 3 civilians shaheed, 2 soldiers & 5 civilians injured.

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Islamabad has summoned the Indian envoy in protest over the shelling and killings, and offered to have diplomats from the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members, including the United States and Russia, visit the border and see that no rebel camps exist there.

Both sides accused each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire accord.

Border clashes

Sunday’s clashes came days after Pakistan’s foreign ministry protested against similar incidents from across the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) by Indian forces that killed three civilians and wounded another eight on October 15.

Deadly border clashes have spiked over the past few weeks which have seen Indian and Pakistani forces target frontier posts as well as villages, leading to casualties among soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Tensions between the neighbors have remained high since India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5 and imposed movement and communications restrictions to quell unrest.

Islamabad has warned that changing Kashmir’s status would escalate tensions but India said the withdrawal of the special status is an internal affair and is aimed at faster economic development of the territory.

Pakistan and India both control parts of Kashmir, but each lays claim to the entire region since the countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the region.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Mysterious Indus Valley People Gave Rise to Modern-Day South Asians

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Mysterious Indus Valley People Gave Rise to Modern-Day South Asians

a photograph of an ancient skeleton buried in Rakigarhi in India

The skeleton of an individual from the Indus Valley Civilization whose fragile, ancient DNA revealed links to modern-day South Asian populations.
(Image: © Vasant Shinde)

Ancient DNA evidence reveals that the people of the mysterious and complex Indus Valley Civilization are genetically linked to modern South Asians today.

The same gene sequences, drawn from a single individual who died nearly 5,000 years ago and was buried in a cemetery near Rakhigarhi, India, also suggest that the Indus Valley developed farming independently, without major migrations from neighboring farming regions. It’s the first time an individual from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization has yielded any DNA information whatsoever, enabling researchers to link this civilization both to its neighbors and to modern humans.

The Indus Valley, or Harappan, Civilization flourished between about 3300 B.C. and 1300 B.C. in the region that is now covered by parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India, contemporaneous with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The people of the Indus Valley forged an impressively advanced civilization, with large urban centers, standardized systems of weights and measurements and even drainage and irrigation systems. Yet despite that sophistication, archaeologists know far less about the civilization than that of ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, in part because the Indus Valley writing system hasn’t yet been deciphered.

Cracking Codes: 5 Ancient Languages Yet to Be Deciphered

a map of india, pakistan and afghanistan with sites where indus valley civilization archaeological finds havke been discovered

A map of the Indus Valley, or Harappan, Civilization. Rakhigarhi, the location of the burial that yielded ancient DNA for analysis, is highlighted in blue.

(Image credit: Vasant Shinde)

 Elusive DNA

Gathering ancient DNA from the Indus Valley is an enormous challenge, Vagheesh Narasimhan, one of the leading authors of the new research and a postdoctoral fellow in genetics at Harvard Medical School, Live Science, because the hot, humid climate tends to degrade DNA rapidly. Narasimhan and his colleagues attempted to extract DNA from 61 individuals from the Rakhigarhi cemetery and were successful with only one, skeleton likely belonging to a female which was found nestled in a grave amid round pots, her head to the north and feet to the south.

a round, red, chipped pot found in an ancient burial from the indus valley civilization

A red pot found near the head of the Indus Valley skeleton that yielded ancient DNA.

(Image credit: Vasant Shinde)

The first revelation from the ancient gene sequences was that some of the inhabitants of the Indus Valley are connected by a genetic thread to modern-day South Asians. “About two-thirds to three-fourths of the ancestry of all modern South Asians comes from a population group related to that of this Indus Valley individual,” Narasimhan said.

Where the Indus Valley individual came from is a more difficult question, he said. But the genes do suggest that the highly agricultural Indus people were not closely related to their farming neighbors in the western part of what is now Iran.

“We were able to examine different associations between the advent of farming in that part of the world with the movement of people in that part of the world,” said Narasimhan.

Farming, Narasimhan said, first began in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. No one knows precisely how it spread from there. Did agriculture pop up independently in areas around the globe, perhaps observed by travelers who brought the idea to plant and cultivate seeds back home? Or did farmers move, bringing their new agricultural lifestyle with them?

In Europe, the genetic evidence suggests that the latter is true: Stone Age farmers introduced Southern Europe to agriculture, then moved north, spreading the practice as they went. But the new Indus Valley genetic evidence hints at a different story in South Asia. The Indus Valley individual’s genes diverged from those of other farming cultures in Iran and the Fertile Crescent before 8000 B.C., the researchers found.

“It diverges at a time prior to the advent of farming almost anywhere in the world,” Narasimhan said. In other words, the Indus Valley individual wasn’t the descendent of wandering Fertile Crescent farmers. She came from a civilization that either developed farming on its own, or simply imported the idea from neighbors — without importing the actual neighbors.

Both immigration and ideas are plausible ways to spread farming, Narasimhan said, and the new research suggests that both happened: immigration in Europe, ideas in South Asia. The results appear today (Sept. 5) in the journal Cell.

Complex populations

The researchers also attempted to link the Indus Valley individual to his or her contemporaries. In a companion paper published today in the journal Science, the researchers reported on ancient and modern DNA data from 523 individuals who lived in South and Central Asia over the last 8,000 years. Intriguingly, 11 of these people — all from outside the Indus Valley — had genetic data that closely matched the Indus Valley Individual. These 11 people also had unusual burials for their locations, Narasimhan said. Together, the genetic and archaeological data hint that those 11 people were migrants from the Indus Valley Civilization to other places, he said.

However, these conclusions should be viewed as tentative, warned Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, an archaeologist and expert on the Indus Valley Civilization at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was not involved in the new research. Archaeological evidence suggests that Indus Valley cities were cosmopolitan places populated by people from many different regions, so one person’s genetic makeup might not match the rest of the population. Furthermore, Kenoyer said, burial was a less common way of dealing with the dead than cremation.

“So whatever we do have from cemeteries is not representative of the ancient populations of the Indus cities, but only of one part of one community living in these cities,” Kenoyer said.

And though the Indus individual and the 11 potential migrants found in other areas might have been related, more ancient DNA samples will be needed to show which way people, and their genes, were moving, he said.

Narasimhan echoed this need for more data, comparing the cities of the Indus Valley to modern-day Tokyo or New York City, where people gather from around the world. Ancient DNA is a tool for understanding these complex societies, he said.

“Population mixture and movement at very large scales is just a fundamental fact of human history,” he said. “Being able to document this with ancient DNA, I think, is very powerful.”

Originally published on Live Science.

Where Is Oceania? 4 Things to Know About This Remote Corner of the Globe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

Where Is Oceania? 4 Things to Know About This Remote Corner of the Globe

Have you heard of Oceania? If not, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Few people outside of the region are familiar with this remote corner of the world, despite its rich cultural background. Let’s shine some light on the area with four things you might not have known about Oceania.

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Oceania Is the Region Between Asia and the Americas

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First and foremost, where the heck is Oceania? Oceania is the collective name for the islands that rest between Asia, Australia, and North America. The area is generally broken into four parts:

  • Australasia (Australia and New Zealand)
  • Melanesia
  • Micronesia
  • Polynesia

Broadly, this range encompasses most of the tiny islands and archipelagos that dot the Pacific. In fact, Oceania contains over 10,000 islands across its entire geography. But of course, not every island in the Pacific qualifies as part of Oceania.

The islands included in Oceania’s territory are grouped together for their similarities in heritage and cultural traditions. But others in the area, such as Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines, have cultures more firmly rooted in the Asian continent proper. Therefore, common definitions often exclude them from Oceania’s boundaries.

Oceania Contains 14 Different Countries

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Within the above four regions, there’s a surprising amount of political diversity. The Oceania region is home to 14 different countries:

  • Australia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • New Zealand
  • Solomon Islands
  • Fiji
  • Vanuatu
  • Samoa
  • Kiribati
  • Tonga
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Palau
  • Marshall Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • Nauru

In addition to these countries, the greater Oceania region boasts many islands that belong to mainland countries located elsewhere in the world. Many of the countries listed above (like Australia or Fiji) are sovereign nations in their own right, though many of the smaller island nations became independent only recently. Others are even more complicated.

Take Samoa, for example: An archipelago with both sovereign and owned islands. While the western islands of Samoa are self-managed, the eastern island — dubbed “American Samoa” — is an official territory of the U.S. And given just how many islands there are throughout Oceania, it’s fair to say that this region has a more complicated political landscape than other isolated areas.

Oceania’s Economy Is Dominated by Tourism

Credit: TriggerPhoto / iStock

Though home to over 40 million people, Oceania is considered somewhat remote compared to many other parts of the world. And though many of its member nations have thriving import/export economies that bring in substantial income, the vast majority of the region’s economy is dominated by a single industry: tourism.

According to state reports, tourism contributed $57 billion to Australia’s economy in 2017/2018. Other regions in the area, such as New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands, report similar figures, with tourism making up substantial portions of their GDP.

Part of the region’s desirability comes from its isolation. Wealthy travelers from Japan, China, the Americas, and the U.K. regularly visit the Oceanic region on holidays, likely because of the area’s unique climate, diverse wildlife, and “beachside paradise” allure. And while tourism is a challenging income source to maintain, it has the potential to bring significant revenue to otherwise impoverished areas.

Oceania Is Home to Ancient Artistic Tradition

Credit: RPBMedia / iStock

With so many diverse member states and cultural histories making up its foundation, it makes sense that Oceanian art would be rooted in human history. In fact, the longest continuously-practiced artistic tradition in the world is found in Oceania: The rock art of Australian Aboriginal cultures, some of which date back over 40,000 years!

But that’s only the beginning. The Oceanic region is known for artistic works of all kinds, including sculptures, paintings, feather works, tattoos and bark weaving. You might be familiar with one of the region’s most iconic and mysterious artistic creations, the Easter Island Moai.

These giant, monolithic statues were carved by the Rapa Nui people of Polynesia sometime between 1400 and 1650 CE. And while they’re just one of the many amazing cultural artifacts to come out of Oceania, they’re certainly an impressive sight to behold.

The Diverse World of Oceania

Credit: Mlenny / iStock

Unlike other regions, Oceania is too diverse to lay claim to a specific culture or set of beliefs. Its constituent nations are diverse, and so are its inhabitants. So if you ever get a chance to get down there and see the area for yourself, we suggest you take it! It’s a remote region of the world unlike any other.

3 Things You Must Know Before Visiting Myanmar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

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3 Things You Must Know Before Visiting Myanmar

Myanmar is a beautiful country with a rich history that you could spend years exploring. Many of its people belong to the Buddhist religion, and almost every aspect of their culture reflects this. While most people from Myanmar are warm and welcoming to travelers, there are certain things that tourists should and shouldn’t do if they don’t want to seem disrespectful. Here are three things you must know before visiting Myanmar so that you and everyone else will have a calm, enjoyable time.

The Fork Is Not Your Friend

Credit: Milkovasa/Shutterstock

In America, we eat pretty much everything but soup with a fork. In Myanmar, though, forks are not usedfor the bulk of the eating. They are used, but not in a way that is familiar to us. Forks are held in the left hand and used to push food onto a spoon held in the right, which you then eat with. Knives are also largely absent in Myanmar, but this is a bit easier to get used to. Luckily, eating with a fork isn’t as serious as some other faux pas you could make, but it is always best to appear polite and observe the local customs whenever possible.

Money Exchange Can Be Complicated

Credit: Kyaw Zin Soe/Shutterstock

Myanmar has a closed money economy, meaning that the Kyat, its official currency, can’t be bought outside of the country. This means that you have to exchange your U.S. dollars inside Myanmar itself, but there are a few catches. The first is that the higher the value on your bill ($20, $50, $100, etc.), the more favorable your exchange rate will be, so the best course of action is to exchange high-value cash if you can. Also, your cash must be pristine. According to the Myanmar government, any marks, stains, or rips on your bills make them useless and worth nothing, so they will not accept them in an exchange.  To make things even more complicated, the U.S. dollars you are exchanging must also have been printed after 2003, and can’t feature serial numbers with CB, BC, or AB because of a counterfeiting scheme carried out by North Korea several years ago. The one good thing, though, is that most trains, boats, planes, etc. accept the U.S. dollar as currency, so you don’t have to exchange everything.

Watch Your Feet

Credit: Thiti Wongluang/Shutterstock

In America, we don’t tend to think much about where we point our feet. We just walk or stand and that’s about it. In Myanmar, though, it is considered to be extremely rude to point your feet at a person, a statue, or other object, because feet are considered to be “the most disrespectful part of the body.” Be mindful to point your feet in a neutral direction when you are talking to a person (especially a local), so as not to offend anyone. On this same topic, it is also important to remove both your shoes and your socks before entering one of Myanmar’s many breathtaking temples or pagodas. The Myanmarese fought very hard for their right to worship their religion in the way they feel is best and most respectful, so it is only right to follow their rules.

Six Geography Facts That Will Change The Way You Look At The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

As an avid explorer and Travel Trivia reader, you probably know a lot about the world. Well, this planet hides a few surprises. Here are six geography facts that will change the way you see the world.

Around 90% of the Planet’s Population Lives in the Northern Hemisphere

Around 90% of the Planet's Population Lives in the Northern Hemisphere

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When we think about where people live, we assume each hemisphere has a good number of residents. In reality, most of the world’s population is located in the Northern Hemisphere, leaving the Southern Hemisphere nearly uninhabited by this study’s standards. Around 90% of the people on the planet live in the Northern part of the world in countries such as the U.S. and China, making the rest of the world look a bit sparse.

Continents Shift at the Same Speed That Your Fingernails Grow

Continents Shift at the Same Speed That Your Fingernails Grow

Credit: ModernNomad/Shutterstock

If you were awake during social studies class, you will remember that the planet’s tectonic plates are in a state of near-constant movement. This is how the earth went from having basically one big continent to having seven. For around 40 million years, the continents were in a slow phase, moving away from each other at a rate of about one millimeter per year. Then, about 200 million years ago, things got kicked into high gear and the plates began to move at 20 millimeters per year, which, scientists say, is equivalent to the speed at which fingernails grow.

Reno, Nevada, Is Farther West Than Los Angeles

Reno, Nevada, Is Farther West Than Los Angeles

Credit: Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Los Angeles is typically seen as the West Coast city. It is right next to the ocean and it has all those beaches, so it would make sense for it to be farther west than a desert city like Reno, Nevada, right? Wrong! Reno is actually around 86 miles farther west than Los Angeles, due to the curve of California and the placement of the states.

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Asia Is Bigger Than the Moon

Asia Is Bigger Than the Moon

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Continuing on this same shocking track, the moon isn’t as big as it looks either. Still, though, it is around 27 percent of the size of Earth and has 14.6 million square miles of surface area. Although this seems like a lot, it is significantly less than the total surface area of Asia, which is 17.2 million square miles, meaning that Earth’s biggest continent is actually bigger than the moon.

Mount Everest Is Not the World’s Tallest Mountain

Mount Everest Is Not the World's Tallest Mountain

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If someone asks you “What is the tallest mountain in the world?” you will surely answer, “Why, Mount Everest, of course! Everyone knows that!” But sadly, you would be wrong. Technically, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain above sea level, but it isn’t the tallest in the world. This honor goes to Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Mauna Kea rises up 13,796 feet above sea level (compared to Everest’s 29,035 feet), but it also extends down an additional 19,700 feet below sea level, into the Pacific Ocean. To make this mountain even cooler, it is actually a volcano, whose last eruption was 4,600 years ago.

Alaska Is the Westernmost, Easternmost and Northernmost State in the U.S.

Alaska Is the Westernmost, Easternmost and Northernmost State in the U.S.

Credit: Mike Redwine/Shutterstock

This sounds impossible, but I assure you it is true. From looking at a map, it is pretty obvious that Alaska is the northernmost state in the country. What’s surprising? The Aleutian Islands between Russia and Alaska boast the westernmost point of the United States, but in what seems like some sort of geographical oxymoron, they are also home to the easternmost point of the U.S. too. An island called Semisopochnoi (which just so happens to be a collapsed volcano) has a spot that sits so far to the west (around ten miles west of the Prime Meridian) that it actually becomes easternmost spot in the U.S.

UN report finds creative China is booming, supporting Asian trade

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S SHINE NETWORK)

 

UN report finds creative China is booming, supporting Asian trade

Xinhua

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said Wednesday that one of its recent reports on the creative economy shows that China’s trade in creative goods and services is outstripping those of other countries and regions.

This makes it the “driving force behind a prosperous creative economy over the past 15 years”, said UNCTAD in a statement here.

The report tracks the country’s performance in the trade of creative goods and services between 2002 and 2015 and finds that China is the biggest single exporter and importer.

UNCTAD said that China’s trade in creative goods between 2002 and 2015 grew exponentially, at an annual rate of 14 percent.

In 2002, China’s trade in creative goods amounted to US$32 billion. By 2014, this figure had increased more than fivefold, climbing to US$191.4 billion.

There was a drop off in 2015 when China recorded a US$168.5-billion trade in creative goods, but comparatively the country has maintained the lion’s share of the trade in creative goods.

“China’s contribution to the global creative economy is both important and has driven more than a decade’s worth of growth in creative industries and services,” said UNCTAD creative economy head, Marisa Henderson.

Currently, China is the world’s biggest art market, and the film market is set to expand.

The country’s creative economy growth is fueled by internet accessibility, a big consumer marketplace, and a growing digital economy, both closely integrated with the creative economy.

The data also shows that Asia outpaced all other regions, with China and South East Asia, combined accounting for US$228 billion of creative exports, almost double that of Europe.

Besides China, India, Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, and the Philippines were also among the top performing developing economies stimulating global trade in creative goods.

“Generally, South-South trade is on the rise and looks set to be an area of vibrant future growth especially for the creative economy, where the Asian nations are currently very strong performers,” said Henderson.

Among developed economies, the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, and Japan were the top 10 creative goods exporters.

South Korea Legalizes Medical Marijuana, First Country In Asia To Do So

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS DAILY NEWS)

 

South Korea became the first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis, marking a significant milestone in the global industry and a potential turning point in how the drug is perceived in traditionally conservative societies.

The country’s National Assembly voted to approve amending the Act on the Management of Narcotic Drugs to pave the way for non-hallucinogenic dosages of medical cannabis prescriptions.

Medical marijuana will still be tightly restricted, but the law’s approval by the central government is seen as a breakthrough in a country many believed would be last – not among the first – to approve any use of cannabis, even if it is just low-THC, or CBD, to start.

To receive medical cannabis, patients would be required to apply to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, a government body established to facilitate patient access to rare medicines in the country.

Approval would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Patients would also need to receive a prescription from a medical practitioner.

South Korea’s cannabis law overcame a major obstacle in July when it won the support of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which said at the time it would permit Epidiolex, Marinol, Cesamet and Sativex for conditions including epilepsy, symptoms of HIV/AIDS and cancer-related treatments.

On Nov. 23 the ministry said a series of amended laws passed in a National Assembly session will expand the treatment opportunities for patients with rare diseases.

A number of other countries had been vying to join Israel as the first countries in Asia to allow medical cannabis, including Thailand and Malaysia.

“South Korea legalizing medical cannabis, even if it will be tightly controlled with limited product selection, represents a significant breakthrough for the global cannabis industry,” said Vijay Sappani, CEO of Toronto-based Ela Capital, a venture capital firm exploring emerging markets in the cannabis space.

“The importance of Korea being the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at a federal level should not be understated. Now it’s a matter of when other Asian countries follow South Korea, not if.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

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India: Participation in Asean, East Asia summits sign of continued commitment, Modi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Participation in Asean, East Asia summits a sign of continued commitment, says PM Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is participating in the Asean-India and East Asia Summits in Singapore on November 14-15.

INDIA Updated: Nov 14, 2018 00:04 IST

HT Correspondent
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nanredra Modi in Singapore,Asean summit,PM Modi in Singapore
Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on the plane to leave for Singapore on November 13. (Twitter/PMO)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday his participation in the Asean-India and East Asia Summits in Singapore reflects India’s “continued commitment” to strengthen its engagement with Asean members and the wider Indo-Pacific region.

Besides participating in these two summits during November 14-15, Modi will also join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) leaders’ meeting and hold a bilateral meeting with US vice president Mike Pence.

“My participation in these meetings symbolises our continued commitment to strengthening our engagement with Asean member states and with the wider Indo-Pacific region. I am looking forward to my interactions with other Asean and East Asia Summit leaders,” Modi said in his departure statement.

On Wednesday, Modi will be the first head of government to deliver the keynote address at the Singapore Fintech Festival. As the world’s largest financial technology event, he said, the festival is the right forum to showcase India’s strengths in this fast-growing sector and to forge global partnerships for fostering innovation. Modi said he would also have the opportunity to interact with participants and winners of the India-Singapore Hackathon. “It is my firm belief that if we provide the right encouragement and a nurturing ecosystem, our youth has the ability to become global leaders in providing solutions to the challenges facing humanity,” he added.

Besides Pence, Modi will hold bilateral meetings with Singapore PM Lee Hsein Loong, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

First Published: Nov 14, 2018 00:02 IST

“The people’s voices” prevail: Sri Lanka’s prime ministerial crisis to be put to a parliamentary vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

“The people’s voices” prevail: Sri Lanka’s prime ministerial crisis to be put to a parliamentary vote

The Parliament of Sri Lanka. Image from Flickr by Kolitha de Silva. CC BY 2.0

Since October 26, when Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena ousted Ranil Wickremesinghe, the country’s prime minister, and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the ensuing political crisis has many in the country analyzing the constitutional legitimacy of appointing a prime minister without wider consent. The president also suspended the country’s parliament for three weeks and dissolved the cabinet of ministers.

On October 30 and 31, in response to the questionable legitimacy of Wickremesinghe’s removal and the temporary suspension of Parliament, thousands took to the streets of Colombo to demand that Parliament be reconvened in order to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

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Azzam Ameen

@AzzamAmeen

Massive Demonstration in Colombo demanding President Sirisena to convene Parliament “The people have spoken. Summon Parliament. Restore democracy now” says @

Harsha de Silva

@HarshadeSilvaMP

Thank you! Tens of thousands of people thronged the entrance to Temple Trees. They were orderly, not drunk and didnt climb lamp posts. They came only to demand that parliament be summoned and dislodge . Huge success. @MaithripalaS don’t trample democracy. @RW_UNP

Vikalpa

@vikalpavoices

Live updates from the people’s protest at the Liberty Plaza roundabout calling for the re-convening of Parliament

In a news conference, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya urged the president to let Wickremesinghe prove his majority support on the parliament floor, and warned of a bloodbath if the impasse continues.

Nusky Mukthar@NuskyMukthar

Diplomats from UN, EU, UK, Canada & Germany met the Speaker today and urged to convene the parliament and to ensure democracy is protected

Pressure from protests to reconvene Parliament have borne fruit, as Sirisena has scheduled a parliamentary vote to decide who is the lawful prime minister on November 7.

A dysfunctional coalition

The events of the past few days have stoked fears among some Sri Lankans of a return to the period of Mahinda Rajapaska’s presidency, when sectarian violence, state-sponsored repression and censorship were rife. As a group of students has noted in a statement on the matter published by GroundViews:

The resort to violence and coercion is a chilling reminder of what dictatorship looks like. The coup is being followed by a return to the norms of self-censorship, violence, and fear that were characteristic of Rajapaksa-era politics. State media institutions were stormed in the night and security for the Prime Minister and Ministers  arbitrarily withdrawn. Moreover, many private media stations are already becoming vehicles for misinforming the public and spreading disinformation.

Sirisena told reporters that he removed Wickremesinghe after discovering that the latter was involved in an assassination plot against him. But it is believed that the current situation is, in fact, a by-product of the existing power struggle between Sirisena, Wickremesinghe, and Rajapaksa.

In January 2015, then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for a presidential election in a bid to consolidate his power and to seek a third term in office. Sirisena, a former minister in Rajapaksa’s government, defected from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and was nominated as a candidate by the Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) to contest the presidency against the incumbent. Sirisena emerged the surprising winner—securing 51.28% votes against Rajapaksa’s 47.28%—and took over as the new president of Sri Lanka.

After the election, Rajapaksa handed over leadership of the SLFP party to Sirisena in accordance with the party’s constitution, which states that any member who is President is automatically leader of the party. During the parliamentary elections in August 2015, Siresena’s and Rajapaksa’s factions joined forces to contest the election under the banner of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Wickremesinghe’s UNP-led coalition, however, won 106 seats out of 225, with the UFPA winning 95—55 by the pro-Rajapaksa faction, and 40 by the pro-Sirisena faction.

After the parliamentary elections, Sirisena appointed Wickremesinghe prime minister and created a National Government after signing a memorandum of understanding in order to address issues which were not resolved after the end of the 30-year ethnic conflict. Since then, the Rajapaksa-led SLFP faction has been the de-facto opposition party.

Over the past two years, however, Rajapaksa has been gaining significant ground, and his party swept the local elections in February 2018. In April 2018, Wickremesinghe survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament brought by supporters of Rajapaksa, a move clearly meant to weaken the already unstable ruling coalition.

The growing popularity of Rajapaksa’s SLFP party and existing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe over the latter’s leaning towards India as a geopolitical partner instead of China, may be one of the many reasons that Sirisena has chosen to appoint Rajapaksa as prime minister.

“The people’s voices have been heard. . . ” Wickremesinghe stated optimistically on Twitter on November 1, after it was learnt that parliament would be reconvened next week. “Democracy will prevail.”

The Chinese century is well under way

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ECONOMIST)

 

 

The Chinese century is well under way

Many trends that appear global are in fact mostly Chinese

When scholars of international relations predict that the 2000s will be a “Chinese century”, they are not being premature. Although America remains the lone superpower, China has already replaced it as the driver of global change.

There is one economic metric on which China already ranks first. Measured at market exchange rates, China’s gdp is still 40% smaller than America’s. However, on a purchasing-power-parity (ppp) basis, which adjusts currencies so that a basket of goods and services is worth the same amount in different countries, the Chinese economy became the world’s largest in 2013. Although China is often grouped with other “emerging markets”, its performance is unique: its gdp per person at ppphas risen tenfold since 1990. In general, poorer economies grow faster than rich ones, because it is easier to “catch up” when starting from a low base. Yet in other countries that were as poor as China was in 1990, purchasing power has merely doubled.

China’s record has exerted a “gravitational pull” on the world’s economic output. The Economist has calculated a geographic centre of the global economy by taking an average of each country’s latitude and longitude, weighted by their gdp. At the height of America’s dominance, this point sat in the north Atlantic. But China has tugged it so far east that the global centre of economic gravity is now in Siberia.

Because China is so populous and is developing so quickly, it is responsible for a remarkable share of global change. Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, for example, China has accounted for 45% of the gain in world gdp. In 1990 some 750m Chinese people lived in extreme poverty; today fewer than 10m do. That represents two-thirds of the world’s decline in poverty during that time. China is also responsible for half of the total increase in patent applications over the same period.

For all its talk of a “peaceful rise”, China has steadily beefed up its military investment—even as the rest of the world cut back after the end of the cold war. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army accounts for over 60% of the total increase in global defence spending since 1990. And all of this growth has come at a considerable cost to the environment: China is also the source of 55% of the increase in the world’s carbon emissions since 1990.

Sources: Economist Intelligence Unit; Global Carbon Project; Maddison Project Database; SIPRI; World Bank; World Intellectual Property Organisation; The Economist
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This article appeared in the Graphic detail section of the print edition under the headline “Well under way”
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