By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BAOJI, China (IDN) - With an impressive display of Chinese Buddhist culture and hospitality, China laid claims to giving leadership to the Buddhist world, by hosting over 600 international delegates for the 27th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) at this historic city in northwestern China from October 16 to 18.
Though not officially acknowledged, China is today home to between 200-300 million Buddhists thus making it the country with the world’s largest Buddhist population. The restored grand Buddhist temples in Baoji and in close by Xian, and the impressive Buddhist cultural display at the opening ceremony of the WFB meeting is anything to go by, it indicates that Chinese Buddhism has undergone a remarkable revival, after Buddhist temples were destroyed and Buddhist practices disrupted during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s.
Lou Qinjian, Governor of Shaanxi Provice (where Baoji and Xian are located) in a speech opening the conference told delegates from over 40 countries that Buddhism has become an important part of Chinese civilization for over 1800 years and his province has been the gateway for the flow of Buddhism from India to China. He added that over this period Buddhism has spread the ideas of equality, benevolence and harmony that have become important parts of Chinese civilization.
By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) - Present-day summit meetings are about optics and atmospherics. It is the triumph of style over content. The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama was no different. In the age of tweet and TV-driven news coverage, events take precedence over outcomes and sound bytes over substance.
Documents such as the vision statement or the joint statement, which in times past served as a measure of the agenda and accomplishments of bilateral meetings, are today ignored as pointless verbiage unavoidable for the record.
By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsReport
KUALA LUMPUR (IDN) – Excessive commercialization of children’s media, especially television, is obstructing efforts aimed at education and capacity building for global citizenship and raising awareness among children of the diversity of the world, according to experts.
Many of the speakers at the recent World Summit on Media for Children in Kuala Lumpur agreed with Dr Patricia Edgar, former director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, that the majority of children’s programmes are commercially driven and not educational.
By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - Within two months the newly elected Prime Minister of India has had summit meetings with the Japanese Prime Minister, the President of China and the President of the USA. India, Japan and China are the Asian giants while the US remains the sole global super power. Thus the evolving relationships amongst them have special significance. It has become a cliché today to describe all friendly bilateral relations as “strategic partnerships” but obviously some relations are more “strategic” than others.
In the halcyon period of Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership of Indian foreign policy good relations with China was a cornerstone governed by the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence or Pancha Shila embodied in the Sino-Indian Treaty of April 29, 1954. The Sino-Indian war of 1962 blighted that relationship and although some normalcy has been restored, especially in terms of trade and other economic ties, bilateral relations have never been the same. India’s dramatic economic development and the election of a strong leader in Narendra Modi has created a new climate for reaching out to Asia and the world after the symbolic first steps towards South Asian neighbours were taken with the problem of Pakistan shelved for the moment.
By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
SINGAPORE (IDN) - In 2003 when U.S. President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were contemplating invading Iraq based on the now discredited claims of Iraqi President Saddam Hussien possessing “weapons of mass destruction”, the then Arab League chief Amr Moussa warned that such an action would “open the gates of hell” in the Middle East.
Today, not only Iraq, but also many of its neighbours such as Syria, Palestine and Libya have descended into the “hell” Moussa predicted. Yet, the West seems blind to it and is repeating the same mistakes again, lacking the wisdom to understand that the threat the West argues needs to be neutralized, is coming from the “hell” they themselves created.
Six months after invading Iraq, in September 2003, President Bush addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) said that the U.S. and its allies were fighting “a global movement of violent extremists” and in September 2014 President Barack Obama used almost identical words when he said that the U.S. will work with a broad coalition to “dismantle this network of death”.
By Chas Henry* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
WASHINGTON DC (IDN) - On a recent summer morning in Northern Virginia, about 100 very fit 20-somethings in camouflaged uniforms marched onto a large asphalt parade field in Quantico, Virginia – elated after ten weeks of tough physical and mental screening to have been selected as officers in the U. S. Marine Corps.
Among their ranks: Joseph Rocha, who many would have imagined the last person who would want to be part of that formation.
By Jutta Wolf | IDN-InDepth NewsReport
BERLIN (IDN) - Violations of rights in Egypt are becoming increasingly evident in the aftermath of the country’s Ministry of Social Solidarity proposing a new law, which would constitute a dangerous escalation in the framework of systematic targeting of civil society activists and increasing restrictions imposed upon them, according to the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).
By Shada Islam* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
BRUSSELS (IDN) - Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini’s appointment as the new European Union foreign policy chief offers the opportunity for an overhaul of EU foreign and security policy.
With many EU leaders, ministers and senior officials slow to respond to world events given Europe’s traditionally long summer break, the 2014 summer of death and violence has left the reputation of ‘Global Europe’ in tatters, highlighting the EU’s apparent disconnect from the bleak reality surrounding it.
When she takes charge in November along with other members of the new European Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, Mogherini’s first priority must be to restore Europe’s credibility in an increasingly volatile and chaotic global landscape.
It cannot be business as usual. A strategic rethink of Europe’s global outreach is urgent.
By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - After an earlier eruption of one-sided warfare in Gaza, I wrote a piece titled “Eyeless in Gaza” in December 2012 referring appropriately to an Old Testament story in the Bible, resonant with both the Jewish Israeli and the Christian Palestinian, and recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s warning that an eye for an eye will make us all blind. I concluded that, “A peaceful settlement of the illegal occupation of Gaza by Israel and an end to the scandalous conditions of its 1.7 million citizens is still very far away.”
Of course no peaceful settlement has taken place. Instead we have had brutal and relentless ground and air attacks by Israel and exchanges of fire finally ending after 50 days of suffering and destruction with a ceasefire on August 27. There is no guarantee that this will be a sustainable ceasefire unless the root causes are addressed.
By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) - About 22,000 nuclear weapons continue to threaten humankind’s survival nearly 70 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted to date, according to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). But the world is far from prepared to effectively respond to nuclear weapons detonations, “even at basic levels of preparedness, let alone a large-scale nuclear war”.
This perturbing view has been expressed in a study by the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) undertaken in cooperation with OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and UNDP (UN Development Programme) ahead of the first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.