By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
NEW DELHI (IDN) – If there is one leading light of the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who struck the right notes, made the right moves and generally impressed observers and her audiences, it is, without doubt, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
She hit the ground running as it were: From keeping up the momentum in relations with the eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations, following their leaders' visits for Prime Minister Modi's swearing in, the first foreign visit to Bhutan, to the fraught situation in Iraq and the evolving situation in Afghanistan, Swaraj has been on the go from Day One.
In addition, she presided over conclaves of Indian envoys in neighbouring countries to an agenda ably scripted by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and managed a goodwill visit to Bangladesh in the course of which she charmed both Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
By Monzurul Huq* | IDN-InDepth NewsEssay
TOKYO (IDN) - Human memory is short, particularly when it comes to record war and destruction. Countless details of various times portraying the accounts of misery and human suffering probably remind us of something vague and abstract; something distant and detached, not at all related to the realities that we face at any given time. Since what is seen as vague or blurred hardly serves as solid evidence, and what is distant hardly seems inspiring for stirring our conscience to the level of awakening, we tend to forget about what war and destruction brings to mankind soon after the waves of tragic realities subside and pave the way for a relative tranquil setting, at least for a short time.
By Baher Kamal* | IDN-InDepth NewsFeature
CAIRO (IDN) - One does need to think back half a century ago, to remember how much harmony and peaceful coexistence reigned in Arab countries between Muslims, Christians and Jewish.
Nor does one need to recall how hundreds of Muslims gathered to protect Christians praying in their churches in Egypt during and after the 2011 popular upraising. Or how organised groups of Copts acted as a human shield to save Muslims praying in Cairo's Tahrir Square from extremists' attacks during the successive waves of popular protests.
Coexistence between adepts to the three monotheist religions in the Arab region has always been taken for granted. In Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine or Syria, Iraq and Morocco, no citizen would ever ask another citizen to which religion does he or she belong.
What happened then?
By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BANGKOK (IDN) - 2015 is expected to become a watershed year for shaping the global development agenda with the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development models and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) frameworks, all coming up for review at major UN conferences during the year.
Thus, the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference On Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) that concluded in the Thai capital on June 26 gave a taste of things to come with a lot of emphasis given to discussion on community based solutions.
By Martin Khor* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
SANTA CRUZ (IDN) - The Declaration of the G77 Summit held in Santa Cruz on June14-15 has sections on three prominent issues that are presently the subject of negotiations at the United Nations – the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Declaration should thus have significant influence on the UN negotiations since it reflects the positions of the G77 and China, at highest political level, and these positions can be expected to be maintained by the Group during the negotiations on these three issues.
By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) - Once a year, the German government reports the amounts of weapons the country’s military industry exported to the world during the previous 12 months. Once a year, German society pretends to be scandalised by the numbers and particularly the recipients of the weapons. Once a year, the German government explains why the military exports are important for the country (jobs, jobs, jobs!) and why the importing regimes, many of them undemocratic, should continue benefiting from the German high tech weapons. And never something changes.
By Baher Kamal* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
MADRID (IDN) - In spite of social, economic and political instability in Egypt and other Arab countries, Cairo has lastly intensified its efforts aimed at eliminating, as soon as possible, all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.
Egyptian diplomacy fears that further delays in taking specific actions to declare the Middle East a nuclear free zone, may lead to a nuclear armament race in the region, in view warnings that some major countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, might decide to go nuclear to face Israeli and Iranian nuclear threat. | READ JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF
By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth Viewpoint
KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - In marked contrast to the vibrant exercise of democracy in India last month, a military coup toppled a controversial but democratically elected government in Thailand – an Asian Buddhist country with which Sri Lanka has ancient bonds and shared traditions. Worse still an election was held from May 26-28 in Egypt – a founder member of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) – resulting in recently retired Army Commander Abdul Fattah al-Sisi securing an incredible fairy-tale 96.9% of the vote in which only 47.45% of the voters cast their vote.
This column wrote in an analysis of the July 3, 2013 coup, which deposed the democratically elected Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Much now depends on the interim Government and their ability to pave the way for fresh elections when a genuinely representative Government will emerge. The Muslim Brotherhood must also change and settle for a compromise and for reconciliation in the larger interests of the stability and prosperity of Egypt and her people.”
By Kalinga Seneviratne* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
SINGAPORE (IDN) - For the past six months thousands of people under the banner of the Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by a former Deputy Prime Minister have been rallying across Bangkok calling for the overthrow of the “corrupt Thaksin regime” while the police and military stood by, even sometimes clearing the way for their marches. PDRC sabotaged the February elections called by a government under siege and later succeeded in getting the Elections Commission to nullify the results.
The demonstrators have been calling for the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Yinluck Shinawatra to be replaced by an unelected Peoples’ Council to redraw the constitution to stamp out money-politics in the Thai electoral system. Finally the military seem to have come to their aid, and put democracy to the test.
By Jayantha Dhanapala* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
KANDY, Sri Lanka (IDN) - At a time when faith in genuine people-based democracy is waning globally, an electoral exercise of gigantic proportions has just been concluded in the world’s largest democracy - India. A record 66.8 % voted over nine phases and the nationalist Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), with 63 year old Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate, has won an overwhelming majority to rule by itself and, with its coalition allies in the National Democratic Alliance many of them representing regional interests, falling just short of a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha.
The “Modi wave”, accurately presaged by the opinion and exit polls, has turned out to be a Modi Tsunami reducing the venerable Congress Party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to a state where it may not even qualify to take the post of Leader of the Opposition.
By Mirjam van Reisen* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BRUSSELS (IDN) - Even though the military regime has closed the border and practices a shoot-to-kill policy to stop people fleeing, nearly every tenth Eritrean has fled the country for political reasons or belongs to the Eritrean diaspora. With over 200,000 having sought refuge abroad or chosen to live overseas recently, more than ten per cent of the population seems to prefer to live abroad.
In fact, according to Dutch Minister Fred Teeven, there has been a rapid increase of refugees during the last months. In 2013 the Netherlands received one thousand Eritrean refugees in total. Meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands from Syria and Eritrea has gone up from 1,000 a month in February and March to around 1,000 a week.