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US-China tussle over South China Sea



How US President Donald Trump will tackle Chinese claim of indisputable sovereignty  over South China Sea is yet to be seen but China’s core leader Xi Jinping aims at US abandoning the International waters so that Beijing can have supremacy over the Pacific.

Two great economies of the world are likely to clash over SCS as it is a thorny issue for China and the Trump administration cannot afford to loose American influence in the Pacific region of Asia.

Defence Secretary James Mattis stated that demilitarization  and Freedom of Navigation is the bottom line of US foreign policy in this region.

While China has nearly completed the process of militarizing the South China Sea by building structures on the reclaimed islands in both the Spratly and Paracel chains  to deploy surface to air missiles  and created structures  with retractable roofs on Subi,Mischief and Fiery cross reefs for fighter jets and bombers.

Actually, China had declared entire SCS under its jurisdiction and started transforming reefs into artificial islands with military runaways  and naval harbours  to assert its authority and influence in these areas.

Meanwhile China’s strategic manoeuvres progress Trump has not so far finalised his China’s policy but initially he warned China by blocking its access to disputed waters and even opposed  One-China policy but later on phone call with Xi, Trump agreed to negotiate on One-China but dispatched aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and a guided missile  destroyer to patrol the South China Sea terming it as a ‘routine operation’.

Beijing counters US saying that deploying necessary  and appropriate national defense facilities on its own territory is in line with exercising a right bestowed by International law to sovereign states.This means China will use all its resources ie diplomacy, military and economic pressure on US allies including Russia and others to safeguard its supremacy over SCS.Leaders of the Southeast Asian nations foreign ministers expressed grave concern over the militarization of the SCS.

Trump has to openly come out  with his foreign policy initiatives to win over the allies that may be yielded to Chinese aggression.

arti bali

By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist


Modi government officially confirms death of 39 Indians kidnapped by Islamic State in Iraq



It took four years for the Modi government to confirm the death of 39 Indian workers who were abducted by the terror organisation ISIS in June 2014 from Mosul in Iraq.The grieving families of massacred Indians are in pain and agony against the government over not informing them first directly rather External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a suo moto statement in the Parliament.

This insensitivity of the government has made the victims’ families furious as they claimed that they had met the Union Minister Swaraj 11 to 12 times but were given false assurance that according to their sources the missing Indians were alive and Harjit Masih ,the lone survivor, is a liar.

The government came under a direct attack from the Congress as it termed the government of crossing all limits of “insensitivity, inhumanity, and being merciless” and politicising the issue.

The government met the families and gave misleading assurances in front of cameras so as to give an impression that government is doing more than enough for searching the 39 construction workers.

“All the 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State in Mosul in Iraq three years ago are dead and their bodies have been recovered, said Swaraj in the Rajya Sabha. Their identities were established through DNA testing and their bodies recovered from a village called Badosh- northwest of Mosul, she said.

Indian and Iraqi officials did not disclose details of when and how the victims were killed.

Swaraj said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes,and IDs. The bodies were then sent to Baghdad for DNA testing.

DNA testing by Martyrs Foundation has established the identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70 per cent
matching of the DNA for the 39th person, she said.

Where as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been boasting off for assisting foreign countries by evacuating 1,947 foreign nationals from 48 countries from Yemen.

When the government cannot promise the safety of Indian citizens at home and abroad how it can brag about assisting foreigners?

There are some serious questions that need to be answered by the government as Why did the Modi government took four years to confirm the death of 39 abducted Indians?

Why was Masih’s revelation about the status of missing Indians was rejected despite confirmation from Bangladesh sources?. Harjit Masih, an Indian national who was also captured in Mosul and escaped, had stated  in November 2014 that the other workers had been shot and killed.

Sushma has dismissed the allegations that the lone survivor, Harjit Masih, who escaped from Iraq’s Mosul, was harassed and kept in a protective custody.
While addressing the media on the issue of 39 Indians killed in Mosul, Swaraj said, “It is baseless that Harjit Masih was harassed, he was kept in protective custody. I had said this in Parliament earlier.”

Why did they give false hopes to the families’ and misleading statements to the people of India?

The Government gave no logical explanation, other than the fact that the government wanted DNA proof.

Instead of bragging about their floated schemes, Prime Minister Modi should list out the shortcomings of his government and should think of providing compensation to the victim’ families.He should rather learn to be truthful and own up to his government failures.


Arti Bali

Sr Journalist


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Afghan government’s peace offer to Taliban

China and the European Union believe the Taliban should accept Ghani’s offer to recognize the movement as a legitimate political group.



Ashraf Ghani

US is concerned over the increasing number of high-profile attacks in Kabul orchestrated by Taliban that is aimed at undermining the Afghan government and international resolve to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan after 16 years of war as Jakarta is preparing to host a trilateral conference where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia would seek to establish peace and security, and the end of terrorism.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has assured unconditional talks to the Taliban and offered to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a potential ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant group.The president also offered to provide passports to Taliban members and their families, along with an office in Kabul, but the Afghan Taliban remains skeptical about the Indonesia conference.

The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The group controlled Afghanistan until 2001, when it was overthrown by the US-led coalition that invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks.

Afghanistan’s Taliban agreed to discuss peace and reconciliation with the leaders of Afghan jihadi organizations opposed to the U.S.-led “foreign occupation” of the country but maintained its silence over Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent offer of a reconciliation dialogue.

Kabul is our main effort. To harden Kabul, to protect the people of Kabul and the international community that are here,” US General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan stated.

To defeat ISIS and Taliban, Washington has shifted resources from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan by adopting the regional approach, Considering the complexities of political realities in Afghanistan, US is working to achieve a reconciliation, a political reconciliation, not a military victory.

As regards with strategic framework of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s South Asia strategy unveiled in August 2017, it was hoped that Ghani would embark on a path toward more inclusive politics by shaping a broad-based consensus to prepare the grounds for the success of the new U.S. strategy.

General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan said the United States held a series of private talks with Pakistani officials about the elimination of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan.

US asserted that the recent pressure applied to Pakistan has not resulted in the reduction of violence in Afghanistan and reiterated that Washington will take steps to cut the aid coming from Pakistan to the Taliban and other groups.

Meanwhile, Head of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has called on the Taliban to accept government’s peace offer.Hekmatyar said he has sent a peace outline to government and to the Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada and asked him to use the opportunity and join the peace process.

According to Hekmatyar, war is of no benefit to anyone and only the Afghan people are victims of the ongoing conflict. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s support of an Afghan-led peace deal. “I commend President Ghani for his courageous leadership. His offer to the Taliban is the clearest invitation to peace yet. So I call on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. There is an opportunity now to end the conflict”, he added.

China and the European Union believe that Taliban should accept Ghani’s offer to recognize the movement as a legitimate political group.Where as US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy priorities include clamping down on the Taliban and Haqqani network  for stabilizing  Afghanistan.


Arti Bali

Sr Journalist

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Congress plenary sets stage for keen, bitter contest with BJP in 2019

The Congress has suffered a string of reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but its performance in Guajarat assembly polls and victory in Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan has boosted the morale of party workers.



Rahul Sonia

The Congress made a strenuous effort to energise its workers for the electoral battles ahead at the party plenary that concluded on Sunday, pitching itself as the real alternative to BJP while also expressing its willingness to cooperate with like-minded parties to unseat the Modi government in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The session, with fiery speeches of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, gave an inkling that the 2019 battle will be keenly fought and the campaign could get bitter as the election approaches.

The Congress gave indications that it will run a relentless campaign, try to set the agenda for the polls ahead and seek to put the Modi government on the defensive on various issues.

Amid calls for sustained hard work to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister in 2019, the party signalled it would not shirking from a presidential-style contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Image result for congress plenary

Much will depend on the outcome of the verdict in states going to the polls this year — Karanataka first and Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh later this year. Except for Karnataka, the Congress and BJP are locked in a direct contest in the three other states.

The three-day plenary took place at a time when efforts are underway to forge a third front of parties opposed to BJP as also the Congress.

The speeches and the resolutions adopted at the plenary were a reaffirmation of the Congress claim of being the natural leader of the grouping of anti-BJP parties.

The Congress faces a stupendous challenge of building a counter-narrative against Modi to weaken his credibility among the people, win back sections that have drifted away and match the BJP’s deftness as a poll-fighting machine.

But it also has a natural advantage as a challenger to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and to the Modi government in 2019. In these battles, the BJP will be tasked with defending performance of its governments and beat anti-incumbency.

Image result for congress plenary

The Congress is also keen to make Modi’s 2014 pitch of “acche din” an albatross around the BJP’s neck.

Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party chief in December from his mother Sonia Gandhi, sought to energise the party rank and file and promised to address their grouse that well-connected within the party often “parachute” down at the time of ticket allocation at the cost of genuine, dedicated workers.

He also promised to make party leaders more accessible to workers by breaking the “walls” and giving more tickets to the youth.

With several state units plagued by factionalism, Gandhi indicated that he would enforce discipline so that party’s effort at winning elections is not wrecked in any way.

He framed the 2019 battle as a fight for truth by the Congress and for power by the BJP — likening it to the clash between the Pandavas and the Kauravas during the Mahabharata battle.

The “worker-centric” gathering was held in a different format than the past plenaries with leaders were not seated on the stage.

Image result for congress plenary

Rahul Gandhi said he had kept the stage empty for talented youth from within the party and outside.

Sonia Gandhi exhorted party rank and file not to think of personal egos and ambitions and work with determination to face challenges that are not ordinary.

While the party’s political resolution talked of adopting a pragmatic approach for cooperation with all like-minded parties and evolving a common workable programme to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections, its leaders, in their speeches, exhorted workers to work for party’s victory in the general elections.

They also said that Congress was the only party that can reverse the “ill-effects” of BJP’s economic policies.

There was hope that Rahul Gandhi would unfurl the Tricolour from the Red Fort in 2019.
There was also hope that Congress will “once again” become a party that represents the aspirations and expectations of all the communities and is the anchor of the political and social dialogue.

While the party’s four comprehensive resolutions – political, economic, foreign affairs and on `agriculture, unemployment and poverty alleviation’ sought to address concerns of various sections of society, Rahul Gandhi, in his concluding speech, focused on youth and farmers – two sections that are perceived to be getting disenchanted with the Modi government and represent a vast section of population.

More than half of country’s population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood and almost two-third of population is below the age of 35.

The Congress has suffered a string of reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but its performance in Guajarat assembly polls and victory in Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan has boosted the morale of party workers.

By : Prashant Sood

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

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