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China to overtake Australia as biggest donor to Pacific

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Canberra, Aug 10: China could overtake Australia as the biggest donor to Pacific nations, but only if Beijing follows through on its promises of aid and support that are currently billions of dollars short of being realised, a new report said here on Friday.

According to the report from Australia’s Lowy Institute, a foreign policy think tank, China has pledged around $5.88 billion worth of aid to the Pacific since 2011, less than Australia’s $6.72 billion, reports CNN.

During the same period, the US committed $1.36 billion in aid to the Pacific.

While Australia is still the biggest player in the region, ongoing major spending under Belt and Road could see Beijing leapfrog it.

In Papua New Guinea alone, China has pledged billions of dollars to build roads and other projects, some of which is not reflected in the Lowy data because the deals are in their early stages.

However during the 2011-2018 period, only around 21 per cent of the money China pledged was actually spent, compared to 97 per cent for Australia, according to the report.

While China’s aid commitments would see it overtake Australia in the near future, Jonathan Pryke, director of Lowy’s Pacific Islands Programme, was sceptical if actual spending would ever match Beijing’s promises.

“China is talking a big game in terms of its commitments to the region and that’s concentrated on one country, Papua New Guinea,” he said. “I’m not convinced China will (overtake) Australia. We have a much broader, much deeper degree of engagement than China has.”

Earlier this year, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells accused Beijing of constructing “useless buildings” and roads that “(don’t) go anywhere” while loading unsustainable debt onto poorer countries, reports CNN.

Australia has become increasingly gripped by concerns over Chinese influence in the country, and relations between Beijing and Canberra have deteriorated around the passage of an anti-foreign influence laws seen as targeting China.

A series of angry editorials and opinion pieces in Chinese state media when the laws were first introduced labelled them “disgraceful” and “absurd”.

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Clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces kills 466

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Kabul, Aug 14 :At least 466 people, including 40 civilians, have been killed in ongoing clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in Ghazni city as the Islamist group launched an offensive to seize control of the eastern Afghan city five days ago.

“Taliban deaths increased to 326 while we have 100 security forces martyred, among them 70 policemen. Up to 40 civilians have also been killed,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Ghafoor Ahmad Javid said.

Javid said the casualties had increased from 325 on Monday to 466 as the Afghan security forces, with support from the US Air Force, have been clearing the city and forcing the insurgents to the outskirts.

The data on civilian casualties was still preliminary and the exact number would be released after operations to clear the city of remaining insurgents was complete, he said.

“All areas inside the city are cleared of the Taliban fighters and currently the operation is focused on the western and northern outskirts of the city.”

Javid said the priority for authorities was to provide food and water to the approximately 270,000 residents of Ghazni.

They were also working to restore telecommunication services, electricity and water distribution services, which have been severely disrupted.

This has been the heaviest Taliban offensive on a provincial capital since the brief occupation of the western city of Farah in May.

In 2015, the Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz and held out for several days.

In 2016, the Taliban surrounded and managed to enter Trinkot, the capital of Uruzgan province, and Lashkargah — the capital of Helmand — but in both cases they were able to maintain control for only a few days.

According to information released in 2017 by the US, the Afghan government controls about 56 per cent of the country and the Taliban 11 per cent, while the rest of the territory is under dispute.

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Car Crashes Outside UK Parliament in Suspected Terror Attack

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London, Aug 14:A car crashed into security barriers outside the UK House of Parliament on Tuesday injuring number of  cyclists and pedestrians and the driver  was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences .

The Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command is investigating an incident in Westminster this morning during which a number of people were injured.

Armed police swooped on the scene moments after the vehicle collided with the barriers at 7.37 a.m, pointing their weapons at the vehicle before a male driver in his late 20s emerged.

Though he has not yet been identified, the man is not thought to be previously known to security services, according to Neil Basu, the U.K.’s counter-terrorism police chief.

He was detained and taken to a police station in south London where he remains in custody.
London Ambulance Service said it had taken two patients to hospital with non-life threatening injuries after cyclists and pedestrians were hit. A third patient with minor injuries was assessed at the scene. No one else was in the car and no weapons were found, the police said.

The decision to treat the incident as “terrorist” was made for several reasons, including CCTV recovered by the police showing the vehicle driving at pedestrians and civilians, outside an iconic site, which is seen as a high-profile target for terrorist attacks, reports said.

Westminster tube station was closed and streets around Millbank, Parliament Square and Victoria Tower Gardens were cordoned off. The nearby Strutton Ground was also closed to the public.

“My thoughts are with those injured and my thanks to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response,” said Prime Minister Theresa May.

The Houses of Parliament, as it is known, are surrounded with security barriers of steel and concrete. The measures were extended after the Westminster Bridge attack in March 2017 when a Khalid Masood ploughed a car into crowds on the bridge, killing four people.

Masood abandoned his car and then stabbed and killed an unarmed police officer, Keith Palmer, before he was shot by police in a courtyard outside Parliament.

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Pakistan celebrates Independence Day

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Islamabad, Aug 14 : People all across Pakistan on Tuesday celebrated the country’s 72nd Independence Day.

As the clock struck midnight, fireworks began across the county while buildings were lit up to celebrate Independence Day.

The day-long festivities began with thanksgiving prayers and the hoisting of the national flag at all important public buildings in the country, which had been decorated with bunting and lights ahead of August 14, reports Dawn online.

The day began with a 31-gun salute in the capital, followed by 21-gun salutes in all four provincial capitals.

Pakistan Rangers officials at the Wagah border crossing exchanged sweets with Indian Border Security Force personnel.

The main ceremony will be hosted at the Islamabad’s Convention Centre, where President Mamnoon Hussain is expected to hoist the national flag. Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk, the three chiefs of the armed forces and other notable personalities will be in attendance.

Change-of-guard ceremonies were also held at the mausoleums of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal in Karachi and Lahore, respectively.

People across the country flocked to stalls that lined up streets to purchase national flags in different sizes, t-shirts, badges and other merchandise to display their national pride.

IANS

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