A huge uproar against China is being witnessed in the Maldives. Once treated as an honored guest in the Maldives, China is now a vicious enemy for the domestic population. The reason behind this strong sense of animosity and enmity is two-fold. Firstly, the people are angered by Beijing’s inherent nature of oppressing Uyghur Muslims; a Turkic ethnic society, native to Xinjiang and the second-largest predominant Muslim group in China. Secondly, China’s customary habit of snaring poor countries into debt traps and leveraging them for illicit political influence. The Maldives is staring down to the same barrel as that of Sri Lanka, not in entirety but it sure has begun.
A recent incident from July 2021 has portrayed the aggressive nature of the protests as Maldivians protested in front of the Chinese embassy in the archipelago, holding placards and posters which read, ‘Loan Sharks, Uyghur Lives Matter’ and ‘China Out’.
The protests are basically a consequence of major financial irregularities done under the governance of former president Abdulla Yameen. The Protestors raised their concerns about the government’s debt owed in return for extensive loans by China. The current President, Ibrahim Mohammed Salih has initiated an investigation into these loans in 2018, however, the details of the loans are said to be buried in deep fine print and blurred in opacity. Furthermore, the loans are also said to have been sanctioned against major national and sovereign guarantees. The investigations eventually have led to the imprisonment of Yameen over money laundering charges and economic exploitation. Therefore, a protest bearing such an aggressive outlook is rightfully in accordance with the national sentiment.
Like every other protest on the globe, this enraged protest has also swayed a political disturbance in the Maldives with the opposition parties alleging the former president and current speaker, Mohammad Nasheed as the point-person or anchor of the protest. Contrary to the opposition’s stance, Mohammad Naseem has rather approached India for help and is trying to wean his country away from its proximity to China and has further expressed his disappointment as the opposition parties are reluctant to raise their voices in the nation’s interest.
The inception of the protest was a consequent action of a phone call held between President Solih and President Xi. The dialogue between the two highlighted the fearful atmosphere which has blanketed the tiny country of Maldives. President Solih therefore humbly suggested that it is better to work towards strengthening relations between two countries than being a soft prey for mammoth China. The fear of a tiny country like the Maldives, which solely operates on tourism for its revenue can easily fall into the Chinese debt trap and face a similar consequence as that of Sri Lanka, is unparalleled. It is also a worrisome condition for India as, the Maldives is a close neighbor and if its sovereignty ceases to exist, China would gain another piece of land for its mantle and inch closer towards a war against India.
The issue of atrocities inflicted on the Uyghur Muslims is equally prominent. China is already globally condemned for its inherent hatred against Islam and minority groups – sending them to mass detention camps, restricting them from practicing their religion, forcing indoctrination of communism using mass surveillance, etc. As a result, the Muslim masses of Maldives have raised fierce voices against Chinese actions in Xinjiang and have also attested to the opinion of European countries that have termed the said actions as ‘genocide’.
Why Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, is sending a message of Independence by visiting China
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first G7 head of state to visit China since the outbreak. After the public health crisis, the world changed. The relationship between China and Germany seems to be returning to normal. Since Xi Jinping was re-crowned as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Scholz is the first prominent European figure to visit China.
Nguyen PhuTrong, the head of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Shehbaz Sharif, and Samia Hassan, the president of Tanzania, arrived in Beijing before Scholz. Given that China’s relations with Europe have deteriorated due to Uyghur human rights in Xinjiang and Chinese support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict, the Scholz visit last week was positive for Beijing.
Germany’s biggest European economy will be even more reliant on China in the first quarter of 2022. During this time, Germany invested €10 billion in China. The amount of bilateral commerce increased by 0.9% to $173.57 billion. Imports from Germany are up 54%. The medium-term ambitions of Germany are in jeopardy due to its 1.9% growth rate.
German investment in China grew by 30% in 2022 despite the Ukraine crisis and criticism of China. A €69.5 billion railway project connecting Tianjin, in North China, and Beijing Daxing International Airport is being financed by KfW (the German state-owned development and investment bank), BASF, Hella, and Robert Bosch. For a total of $17 billion, China is purchasing 140 Airbus planes. Costco, a Chinese shipping business, was permitted to invest in Germany’s busiest port, Hamburg, prior to the visit, but with a smaller share. Additionally, the arrival of Scholz coincided with polarization and deteriorating US-China ties. Due to the Ukraine conflict, Germany soon adopted a similar strategy to the US, breaking its contact with Russia.
It maintains caution regarding China because its economic interests are crucial. Scholz met with PM Modi in Berlin after starting his Asia strategy with a visit to Japan rather than China. Germany’s foreign policy did not give China top priority, but it is nevertheless significant. It looks inconvenient that the visit comes right after the CCP’s 20th National Congress.
Germany confronting China alone has angered Europe. Germany rejected the joint Scholz-Macron visit. The visit by Scholz and a corporate delegation demonstrates a duplication of Angela Merkel’s approach. German businesses, which are already suffering from the epidemic, the energy crisis, and the break from Russia, according to the ruling SPD, cannot afford to decouple from China. The German Foreign Ministry criticizes China’s human rights record and is developing a new China strategy to counter the systemic rivalry that the EU anticipated.
The Scholz visit revealed strategic independence in Germany. When viewed from the perspective of German relations with Russia, the same autonomy is apparent.
If Germany sways away for its own reasons, how will it continue to lead Europe? Scholz needed to pull many savvy rabbits out of his Beijing visit if he wanted to position Germany and potentially Europe as independent players in the inevitable US-China polarization.
Scholz provided background information for his visit in an opinion piece that was published in the FAZ the day before. Since Merkel’s most recent trip to China in 2019, he admitted that the world had undergone significant upheaval. It was crucial to have a face-to-face meeting with Xi in order to address the world’s unresolved problems, not because he intended to carry on as normal. China had seen a major upheaval. The German approach had to adapt as well because China had changed.
Additionally, the world had changed. Russia posed a menace that needed Chinese assistance to counter. China was reminded of its unique duty to uphold the UN Charter’s ideals and exert influence over Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This is similar to what China claims about Russia in its Global Security Initiative, which it has yet to put into action. Scholz talked about the necessity of increasing Germany’s partnerships and the multipolarity of the world.
Berlin works with various partners because he does not want to see blocs reemerge. China shouldn’t be left alone, and a Chinese-dominated world system cannot be cozy. Germany and Europe continue to value China as a trading partner. Berlin didn’t want to cut its ties with it. With China, Germany would want more parity and economic diversification. When it came to rare earth, cutting-edge technologies, or raw resources, “risky dependencies” had grown. German enterprises were developing different supply chains. China and Germany will now look for a differentiated basis for trade and investment. Instead of “protectionism and withdrawal,” Germany prefers diversity and strengthening.
Scholz’s fourth goal was that the disparities between China and Germany, notably those involving political and civil rights, including in Xinjiang, could not be overlooked. Scholz stated that while Germany adheres to the One-China policy, any change to Taiwan’s status must be peaceful and reached via mutual consent.
Germany’s China policy, according to Scholz, will be effective if it is in line with European policy. In his opinion, there were various areas where China should have a role, including dealing with the G 20, the SDGs, and other things. Before his visit, he consulted with the EU, French President Macron, and the US.
The Chinese readout supports the majority of what Scholz claimed. To preserve Germany’s strategic autonomy, Xi is courting it. Despite Scholz’s concerns, it stated that “there should be no self-imposed constraints or unrealistic expectations” and publicly disregarded the Taiwan and Xinjiang issues.
This visit is significant because Germany has again demonstrated its desire for strategic independence from the US. Before the Ukraine crisis, which caused them all to flee in the wake of NATO and US leadership, the German coalition and other German and European nations had this as their top priority. Europe is suffering from sanctions and a diminished energy supply due to the standoff in the Ukraine conflict. Despite resistance from within Germany and outside Europe, Germany appears prepared to continue its relationship with China. It must protect its economic growth against the ravages of conflict.
Elections in Nepal Are Crucial For India As Xi Jinping is Growing Interest in South Asia
In a recent essay published in The Kathmandu Post, China’s departing ambassador to Nepal, HouYanqi, mentioned the forthcoming parliamentary elections and expressed the hope that bilateral relations will “continue to achieve new levels.”
It was clear from Beijing’s overt indication that it wanted to maintain strong bilateral relations irrespective of the outcome. Since China has a lot riding on the election results on November 20, India, Nepal’s other prominent neighbor, agrees.
The influence of Nepal, which is geographically positioned between the two Asian superpowers, has been the subject of a high-stakes power struggle between them. They both want a “friendly” administration in Kathmandu in a few weeks.
However, Nepal’s elections are just some of the ones being watched closely by China and India. The US is similarly interested in the outcome, given its fierce regional competition with China.
The US spent significant diplomatic capital over the past year to ensure Kathmandu agreed to its own $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement that calls for constructing roads and energy infrastructure in Nepal. This was done to counter China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Indo-Pacific, which Nepal has endorsed.
Though on the surface, Washington’s State Partnership Programme (SPP) appeared to entail the Nepal Army collaborating with the Utah State National Guard on “humanitarian and disaster management” issues, Kathmandu has been unable to join. However, the SPP has a hidden military purpose and the goal of bringing Nepal on board with the American Indo-Pacific strategy.
Once elections for the 275-member House of Representatives (PratinidhiSabha) and its seven provincial assemblies are complete, New Delhi, Beijing, and Washington will all seek a government in Kathmandu that will protect, if not advance, their strategic interests.
Two erratic electoral coalitions have been established for the time being, with the same old, senile warhorses vying for the position of prime minister. Current Nepali Congress leader SherBahadurDeuba leads one alliance, while former PM K P Sharma Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist leads the other.
Given that Nepalese leaders are motivated more by political expediency and opportunism than by ideology, it is not surprising that Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), who was formerly a member of the grand Communist alliance, is now a member of the coalition led by Deuba.
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Madhav Kumar Nepal, another former prime minister, is also a member of the ruling coalition. After criticizing Oli’s authoritarian behavior, he broke up his relationship with him last year, dividing the CPN-UML. He is presently the leader of Nepal’s newly established Communist Party (Unified Socialist).
A stable Nepali administration that prioritizes its strategic interests is essential for India. However, stability is unlikely to even in the following administration, given the infamy. Nepalese politicians have amassed due to their unquenchable quest for power and the prime ministership.
In addition to causing severe political turmoil within Nepal to ensure his government’s survival, pro-China Oli’s tenure as prime minister caused New Delhi some difficulty. He ferociously incited nationalist feelings, even changing Nepal’s map, sparking a response to the Kalapani territorial dispute with India. As a result, under his leadership, relations between New Delhi and Kathmandu were considerably chilly.
Following Deuba’s appointment as PM in July of last year, who was seen as being pro-India, there was a thaw. Although a coalition administration would make his position shaky as well, New Delhi would likely gamble on Deuba returning to lead the government.
India, which historically regarded Nepal as its backyard because of its connections to civilization and culture and its physical proximity, has seen its influence there fade even as China has made significant gains, luring the nation with its resources and building projects.
Even more, concerning for India is the fact that Beijing has established strong bonds not just with the Communist parties but also with Nepalese leaders who cross party lines. Therefore, the outcome of the election is much more vital for New Delhi.
The fact that the outgoing Chinese envoy publicly attempted to serve as a “peace-maker” to keep the feuding factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) united when Oli was prime minister two years ago provides evidence of the extent to which Chinese influence has permeated Nepal’s political system.
Beijing exerted much effort to bring the Communist parties—the Oli-led CPN-UML and the Dahal-led CPN (Maoist Centre)—together. India is well aware that China will continue its efforts to make sure the Communist-led coalition wins, even though this front collapsed due to the fierce struggle for dominance between Oli and Dahal. New Delhi will be crossing its fingers in the hopes that the new political climate in Kathmandu will be stable and advantageous.
How Does Poverty Impact Education of Children?
One of the main areas where family incomes have an impact is educational outcomes. As seen by school readiness assessments, children from low-income homes frequently begin school behind their counterparts from more affluent families. Along with neighborhood factors and social networks, poverty’s occurrence, depth, duration, and timeliness impact a child’s educational success. However, interventions conducted in Canada and abroad have demonstrated that the impacts of poverty can be diminished by employing long-lasting solutions. In primary care settings, pediatricians and family physicians have numerous possibilities to influence student’s preparation for school and academic achievement. In addition to food, shelter, and clothing, education is one of the necessities of modern existence.
The Indian Constitution has given everyone the right to live honorably and with dignity toward all citizens. The State has been taking several actions to guarantee this fundamental right. The universalization of free and obligatory primary education for all children of school age is one of them—additionally, the right to adhere to and spread faith and religion. In contrast, formal education is a means of guaranteeing the right to live with honor and dignity. In a multireligious secular nation like ours, the latter is a prerequisite environment—to practice and spread the faith of one’s own free will.
Impact of Childhood Poverty on Student’s Education and Their Life Trajectory
Education is a potent weapon for combating poverty and unemployment, enhancing nutritional and health standards, and reaching environmental protection. The formal education system recognizes primary education as a fundamental human right and essential for each person’s personal and social growth. A catalyst is provided by education. It causes changes in society’s economy, culture, and technology. It is said to be the most crucial method of improving one’s characteristics, overcoming obstacles, and seizing further possibilities for long-lasting well-being enhancement. Many individuals are impacted by poverty. But it might be argued that kids are most affected by poverty. And with 1.21 billion people on the planet, children in India who live below the poverty line will undoubtedly suffer the consequences.
Poverty not only hinders a child’s growth but also negatively impacts a child’s educational performance and a lack of access to moral guidance and a moral framework. In the earliest years of life, poverty affects a child’s development and educational outcomes directly and indirectly through mediated, regulated, and transactional processes. In the United States and increasingly developing nations, it has been acknowledged that school readiness, or a child’s capacity to use and benefit from education, plays a unique role in helping people transcend poverty. Although it is a crucial component, a strategy to reduce poverty must include numerous other elements, such as better opportunity frameworks and family empowerment.
How Does Poverty Impact Education of Children in India
India, which now has the world’s third-largest purchasing power parity economy, has been an urban-cantered, industrializing nation since its independence in 1947. Over the last 25 years, India has been noted for its significant economic growth, which looks to continue for the 2017 -2018 fiscal year with an expected growth rate of 7.2 percent. While India has maintained much financial success, many failures and weaknesses still debilitate the nation’s full potential. For example, the poverty rate in India has been less severe in recent years, but there is still much room for improvement.
According to the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty in 2016, 270 million Indians made ends meet on $1.90 or less daily. Eighty percent of those affected by these circumstances resided in rural India, where everyday work is the primary source of income for the populace. Despite what would have appeared to be an economic boom over the previous 25 years, most growth has been in cities where the software development centers of huge international businesses like IBM and Microsoft are located. Economic growth does not appear to solve the problems of extreme poverty in the manner a neoliberal system would, given the gap between urban and rural living.
Even if educational advancements have not been exclusively responsible for India’s decline in extreme poverty over the past 20 years, the country’s poverty rate has been significantly impacted by investments made in improving the country’s primary education. Despite India’s low literacy and education rates compared to other countries, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has made significant strides recently and expanded its reach to all of India’s districts. According to a recent assessment, there is no teaching activity and low student progression rates in half of India’s government institutions. Promoting high-quality education is necessary if the country is to alleviate extreme poverty truly.
“Let people eat cake” says Pakistan Navy
In 1789 during yet another famine in France, the princess Marie Antoinette upon being told that the peasants had no bread, is said to have replied with frivolous disregard for the starving peasants with the words “Let them eat cake”. Today, the condition of the Pakistani citizens is quite similar to the French peasants of 1789.
The desperate economic conditions in Pakistan and the impact of floods has led the Finance Ministry to issue directives for implementing strict austerity measures for year 2022 – 2023. These measures aim to curtail operating expenditure and reduce the economic burden of the people.
However, it seems that these directives never reached their Navy.
Very recently, Pakistan Navy Ships Shamsheer and Nasr visited Yokosuka Port in Japan with an aim to participate in the International Fleet Review. In much contrast to the government verdict of “no unnecessary expenditure”, the visit was neither mandatory nor of importance. However much to the citizen’s dismay, neither the empty coffers nor the grave economic situation of the people seemed to deter the Navy from going on a tourism cum shopping spree.
Pakistan Navy Ships visit Yokosuka Port in Japan
In economically stable conditions, a Naval ship’s visit to a foreign port would have been welcomed by the citizens. However the economic burden posed by these activities have quadrupled the fear of a complete breakdown of society. While the cost of fuel for such a long voyage is in itself a huge deterrent, the fact that the ships will be stopping at almost five to seven countries during the futile passage, has made matters worse.
Monetary Implications of this cruise
Let’s look at the basic requirement of a naval voyage. The mandatory requirements include buying stores, fuel/lubricants, undertaking necessary repairs, paying the crew in international currency etc. But is this all? Definitely not. Each stop at a foreign port will require a mandatory interaction with the diplomats, exchange of gifts, parties with great pomp and show to announce the naval ships’ arrival, preparation of native cuisines etc.…The expenditure is definitely mind boggling.
Who is paying for this?
All this is paid through already depleting foreign reserves. Therefore understandably, if news of such frivolous expenditure, especially in these trying times were to reach the general public there would be a furore, and a well justified one. But Pakistan’s Navy has been clever, or at least it thinks it has been.
Where normally, all port visits are turned to a media circus by the Navy, this time not a single press release is available on the open media. Why? Because of a stringent gag order on issuing media bites by the government. The Navy has warned cruising ships to conduct events without the presence of press. The aim apparently is to prevent citizens from becoming aware of this trip to Japan. Pakistan’s naval commanders seem to be relying on their belief (definitely flawed and misguided) that – ordinary Pakistani citizen are like the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand – what it cannot see, does not exist!
In today’s world where information travels faster than light – there are enough people who monitor everything. Which is why hiding the journey of two huge warships was definitely worthless. As soon as a local net-hawker identified the movement of the naval ships – the world and entire Pakistan was made aware of the secret journey. The Maverick could not outfox these people.
Frivolous Spending in Desperate Times
While one may still be able to find an excuse for Navy’s foreign visits, but what about the inflating expenditure on the procurement and projects, which are of no immediate importance? As pointed out by social media users a few days earlier, the Pakistan navy has been planning to procure four Frigates (each from Turkey and China), four to eight Corvettes (from the Netherlands), eight submarines (from China) and almost ten new aircraft for its maritime fleet.
Which brings a very interesting scenario to light – the huge lack of communication between the Pakistan’s government and its navy. On one hand the government has been insisting on cutting down operating costs and even travel/fuel usage by every ministry and service, but on the other, the Armed Forces are on a shopping spree. And whose money are these forces using? The question that the citizens of Pakistan need to ask is despite the mushrooming economic crisis, why is there a need to undertake such frivolous expenditure/cruises? And if they are really necessary, why the extra effort to hide it?
Many Pakistanis have already started asking such questions, a mass outcry is not far. And while the Pak armed forces especially its navy may pretend to be blissfully unaware of their countrymen’s plight, they must realize that secret voyages will not help the deplorable situation of their country and their fellow countrymen.
This article has been contributed by Commander Abhishek Rathi (Retd), Indian Naval Officer
Commander Abhishek Rathi (Retd) is a retired executive officer and holds an experience of commanding two naval warships. He has a keen interest in maritime history and technology. The officer is also an avid nature photographer and likes traveling all across India for it.
Leaked Audio Clip of Shehbaz Sharif – Pakistan PM Audio on Dark Web
If the PM’s house is not secure, how can the people of Pakistan rely on officials for their security? These statements were raised in local channels and TV debates in Pakistan, after the release of leaked audio clip of Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan PM on the Dark Web. On 24th September 2022, several audio clips, allegedly recorded in the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad, were leaked online. “I will be releasing ALL files this Friday,” says a dark web message warning of more Pakistan audio leaks. The leaked audio is up for auction on Dark Web. Pakistan’s Intelligence sources have not said anything and are perplexed by this new development as they are yet to claim the credibility of the sources.
Nature of the Leaked Audio of Pakistan PM
The available audio on the dark Web contains interactions with journalists, government officers, premier military personnel also between the first family and extended families. A Twitter handle named Azhar Mashwani from Pakistan has tweeted some of the audio clips, one of which is related to the demand of Maryam Nawaz to Shehbaz Sharif to clear the way for her son-in-law`s machinery import from India. Also during the conversation, the PM house officials were heard saying to Shehbaz Sharif not to import plants from India as it will hurt the reputation of the government.
Refuting any illegal act in importing Power Plant from India, the Pakistan Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Sunday said the audio leak has proved that neither an illegal act was committed nor any undue advantage was given to anyone.” There is a high court order on the installation of grid station on 18 July 2022,” further clarifying on the issue, she also mentioned that the power plant was under the policy formulated during the Imran Khan’s Tenure.
PTI leaders criticised the inefficient security agencies, Fawad Chaudhary claimed that the 100 hours long conversation is up for auction on the dark Web for around 28 crores ($3.5million). “Even the office of the prime minister of the nuclear-armed country is not safe”, Mr. Chaudhary told the media.
Also Read: Who Really Rules Pakistan?
Leaked Audio Clip of Shehbaz Sharif on Dark Web : Inside story
The leak has sparked a debate over the intentions of this incident, is it a conspiracy by someone to defame the ruling regime? To blackmail the government for certain decisions? or a cyber attack by someone in lust for some ransom.
One aspect of this can be traced by following the words of PTI leader Mirza Shehbaz Akbar who said that it is an insider’s job who wants to influence the decision-making before crucial appointments.” First it’s not a hack into the system (and) hacker (and) dark web seems like a cover story, our systems are based on analog and not digital that’s one way of Pak cyber security,” he said. He added that the timing of the leak was important “as it`s just before the crucial appointment, the target seems clear to influence the decision, which way though only time will tell!”.
Some have also targeted the country’s military for the leak, as they secretly record politicians’ conversations to blackmail them. Former Lawmaker Bushra Gohar who blamed the Pakistan Military for the leaked audio, told German news agency Deutsche Welle “It is a serious matter that even the PM’s office isn’t safe for any kind of security meeting. The audio contents are being discussed in public but no one is questioning the illegality of these recordings”.
The former PM Imran Khan used this opportunity to target the government, he said that the Sharif family went for the illegal occupation of a power plant from India, and wanted to make a good relationship with India ignoring the struggle of the Kashmiri people. He also highlighted that 60% of the federal cabinet is facing corruption charges and the main motive of Sharif’s family is to hoard money and nothing else.
One can’t deny the fact that there might be the possibility of involvement of PTI in this leak to push the government and security agencies on the back foot and to utilize it in gaining power in coming elections.
The leaked audio clip of Shehbaz Sharif on dark web is also raising questions from the PTI Chairman Imran Khan as in one of the Audio clips he is heard saying to his then former principal secretary, Azam Khan that “We only have to play on this. We don’t have to name [any country]. We only have to play with this, that this date was [decided] before,” reported Dawn. As Khan was ousted from the PM post, after which he leveled it as a foreign conspiracy. PM Sharif has said that Imran Khan only brought this ‘foreign conspiracy ‘ to evade his responsibilities and to stir up anti-American sentiments.
The possibilities are endless and time will tell what led to these audio leaks, which have raised pertinent questions on the integrity of the country’s highest office.
After the heated political atmosphere, Pakistan Cabinet has announced a high-level inquiry into the audio leaks. A debugging operation was also conducted at the PMO as well.
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