On April 15, 50 Chinese soldiers were stationed in the Western border region to India, the Depsang valley in the region Ladakh. Both countries claim to be the right owner of the disputed area. According to Reuters, China agreed now, a few weeks after the incident to withdraw troops again, but the conflict is not yet over and both countries insist to annex the region officially to their own country.
Already in 1962, the two countries fought about the ownership of the region, as stated on GloablSecurity. Tension arose between the two after India promised the Dalai Lama asylum in 1959, which might have its influence to the outbreak of the Indo-China War in the region three years later, as the website describes. 2,000 people died during the 1-month war. As a result the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was established, a border, which both sides however to not totally accept but respect for now. According to Aljazeera, India and China held 15 meetings so far, but did not make significant progress yet on how the dispute can be solved.
Both, the article of Reuter and the one of Aljazeera consider contiguity to Pakistan of the disputed region to be China’s main interest for their claim of the Depsang valley. Pakistan is a major trading partner of China, especially as a customer of Chinese weapons. Read the rest of this entry »
For a long time, discussions about China’s aircraft carrier never stopped. The authorities also slowed cautious on this issue, because the western society always connects the aircraft carriers owned by China with the “China Threat Theory”. They believe China is eager to seek hegemony by building aircraft carriers and the development of Chinese military force will be a threat to global peace. All kinds of rumors about whether China has aircraft carriers were spread by the international community. However, military vessels can show the status of a country’s military development, therefore, it is unrealistic that China as a rising power would be without aircraft carriers. Hence, on September 29, 2012, the spokesperson of State Defense Ministry officially declared that the first aircraft carrier of China, Liaoning, went into service. China has been the10th country in the world to join the aircraft carrier “club”. This raises the question why China authorities are so determined to rapidly develop its naval force. The current territorial disputes must be one undeniable reason. Read the rest of this entry »
After the Second World War the world seems more united and wars are less likely to happen because nations know what causes it can have on an entire population. As argued by Samuel Huntington in his book “The Clash of Civilization”, wars happen because it lies within human nature. This pessimistic worldview is part of the dominant realist school of thought within the realm of international relations and is based on the premise that war will happen in the future because nations differ in cultures, norms, values and beliefs. For many years now, North Korea and South Korea have been at war and have not been able to sort out their differences. Despite various diplomatic efforts such as the so called “Six Party Talks” which are aimed at ending North Korea´s nuclear program involving negotiations between China, the US, North and South Korea, Japan and Russia, no peace treaty has been signed yet.
North Korea seems to be on the path of war, as they recently on 30 March declared” state of war” with South Korea. The following video informs over North Koreas recent actions and the reactions of the United States, reported by BBC News.
History still plays a very important role in many of the world´s contemporary issues. This is represented by the long-lasting conflict mainly between China and Japan over five small islands in the South East China Sea. The dispute concerns the “Senkatu” islands which are rich in oil, gas and fishery resources. China, Japan as well as Taiwan claim rights to these islands, which are situated along the borders of these countries. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, the country which holds sovereignty over the islands is also in possession of the natural resources. Nevertheless it is not quite clear to whom the islands belong after wars and disputes contributed to confusion and different opinions concerning the rights of possession.
The current discord can be actually described from political, economic and legal angels which seriously complicates the whole situation. Read the rest of this entry »
Vice president of China, Xi Jinping is set to be the new leader of the People’s Republic of China.
After China’s Communist Congress meeting in Beijing on 6th March, Mr. Xi Jinping, formerly China’s vice president, took over from Hu Jintao as president of China, he is set to be a new generation of leader in China. As the new president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi recently stated several essential points regarding the new government’s reform policies in terms of economic development, anti-corruption, diplomatic policies in relation to US and other Asian countries such as Japan and the Philippines. Read the rest of this entry »
Bangladesh is a country, which has seen its fair share of political and social volatility. Recent protests and attacks in the South Asian nation have raised questions about the state of human rights in the country. The media have published and broadcasted regularly on this topic lately. The BBC just posted recently on 15 February that three people were killed during clashes over war crimes. It seems that the situation is related to other events from the country’s unstable past, including its war for independence in 1971. To be able to analyze the situation from a human rights perspective, we have to dig deeper into the country’s history. Read the rest of this entry »
For many years countries with nuclear capabilities have stuck to the agreement they made in 1996 not to test their nuclear weapons. However, in recent years there has been one notable exception. North Korea invests hundreds of millions in a nuclear weapons program, which includes the testing of several nuclear bombs and cruise missiles (CNN, 2012). Only recently, on 12 February, North Korea carried out its third nuclear weapons test one kilometer below the surface, in the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site.
North Korea´s Nuclear test sites presented by the Council of foreign relations
This most recent nuclear test makes it worthwhile to take a closer look at what happened; The Economist stated that the recent nuclear test in North Korea caused a seismic activity of 4.9 on the scale of Richter. This is bigger than the previous two tests in 2006 and 2009. The Global Post stated that North Korea admitted that it carried out a third test, and threatened that even more could follow. In December North Korea launched a satellite successfully, and it is feared that this kind of bomb would be suitable to launch with a rocket. Both the satellite launch and the third nuclear test were in defiance of UN sanctions. According to the KCNA, the North Korean news agency, the recent test was a reaction against American hostility, especially in response to the December satellite launch. As seen in the graph below, which was published by the Economist, North Korea is the only country which tested nuclear weapons in the last decade. It is not the first time that the world is looking critically at North Korea´s nuclear tests due to the fact that the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the country many times before, with the most recent in December 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Rohingyas being caught by the police after arriving to Thailand by boat
The Rohingya conflict within Rakhine, Myanmar, is not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future. What started in October last year, likely as a response to the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman by three Rohingya men, could possibly derail Myanmar’s transition to democracy. Actually, the specific cause of this conflict between the Muslim Rohingya and the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists is still unclear. The Rohingya Muslims are a minority in the Buddhist Myanmar state. The different religious views have led to several conflicts in the past, inter alia the one escalating last year. Rohingyas claim the Rakhine region to where their roots lie, proven by historical facts. Nevertheless, Myanmar took over the region in the 17th century occupying and suppressing the ethical group. Today, the situation has led to great concerns being expressed by the United Nations (UN) and international community. Finally, they have started acting now. For more background information concerning the fate of Rohingyas in Myanmar, be sure to read my fellow blogger Diane’s story.
Since a long time already, Thailand had to face major issues concerning illegal immigration from Rohingyas refugees in the country state. As a result of the conflict in neighboring Myanmar, Thailand is currently the main destination for Rohingyas to immigrate illegally and escape the violent suppression of the Myanmar government. While the Thai government has announced its aid to the refugees temporarily but not handing out the Thai citizenship or applications for future asylum, neighboring countries such as Bangladesh affiliate and do not want to interfere in the political situation of the ethical minority and Myanmar’s government. The Bangladesh military e.g. provides first aid and food to the arriving refugees, before sending them back to their original country. The current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh was cited in an interview with All World News on July 28, 2012 “I do know that it is their citizen, so it is up to them how they will treat with their citizen. I have no right to poke my nose in the internal affairs of any country”.
400 trafficked refugees were found within a rubber plantation in the South of Thailand
Is Sheik Hasina right, does she not or can she not help the Rohingyas refugees arriving to the borders of Bangladesh? According to Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy other countries asylum from persecution. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations”. So, according to the international law, Bangladesh should not be allowed to send the Myanmar’s refugees back, regardless of another state’s sovereignty. Still, they are doing it.
How is the situation in Thailand then? As it is Myanmar’s neighboring state to the east, I had a look at Thailand’s position within the Rohingya conflict. As recently reported by The Nation (January 17), the Thai government agreed in principle to providing access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) representatives to access a group of 850 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar, that are being kept in police stations for illegal immigration. The UNHCR’s concern is to confirm the refugees identities and provide “access to a mechanism to assess their material and protection needs”, before Thailand would like to send the Rohingyas out to another country.
In the past, Thai authorities refused entrance to Rohingyas from Myanmar or Bangladesh to settle in Thailand. On one occasion in 2009 the Thai government abandoned boat-loads of Rohingyas back to sea in unseaworthy vessels, leading to mass drowning of the Muslims; The Nation wrote in the article “Thailand allows UNHCR access to 850 Rohingya arrivals” on January 16. This is just one example of how inhospitable Thailand is to the Rohingyas from Myanmar.
Rohingyas being held in prison by the Thai police
At the moment, 850 Rohingyas refugees are being held by the police in the South of Thailand, waiting for what is going to happen to them. How many Rohingyas are indeed within the country can only be assumed. As Human Trafficking networks are presumably making a fortune with refugees arriving by boat to the south beaches of Thailand, and trafficking them direction Malaysia, the clock is ticking for international organizations and nations to find a solution to the issue. Just recently, 400 Rohingya refugees were being discovered by the Thai police on a rubber plantation in the South of Thailand. They became victims of Human Trafficking and were held at the plantation since three months, waiting to be sold to Malaysia to work on fishing boats. Each of them was to be sold off by agents for 60,000-70,000 baht, approximately 1500 to 1750 Euros per person, according to the Bangkok Post. The 400 Rohingya were all that was left of a group of 2,000 people that Thai and Myanmar traffickers had brought into Thailand on 10-wheeled trucks, the Bangkok Post wrote on January 11 in the article “400 Rohingya held in swoop”. It was even said that Thai officials belonged to the traffickers.
While the situation in Thailand and Bangladesh is uncertain concerning the remaining of the Rohingyas refugees, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, visited Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state in December last year, where the riots started and escalated. She was confident about the importance of an improvement for the living situation in Rakhine, in terms of reconciliation, as both groups still life in fear for each other, but do want to bring the conflict to an end.
Nevertheless, I don’t see any convincing evidence that the Myanmar government is striving for reconciliation regarding the Rohingya matter. “Rohingyas should be placed in UN-sponsored refugee camps, while at the same time offering to resettle Rohingyas in any other country willing to accept them,” Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, was cited by the United Nations on November 16. It seems that as long as Rohingya are leaving Myanmar with the help of NGOs or perhaps Human Trafficking, President Sein is fine with it. If that is indeed the case, the recent visit of the Indonesian foreign minister to Myanmar might not have the desired effect, pledging $1mil to humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas, and sharing Indonesians experience within ethnic conflicts with Myanmar to solve the troubled situation.
Concluding, I would like to say that the Rohingyas first have been discriminated by their own government, then persecuted, and now being sold into Human Trafficking. This was not the perception of Rohingyas leaving their families, friends and children behind, for the search of a hopefully better life. As the situation has still not improved since the riots began, I am anxious to see what will happen next to the fate of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. I wish that the United Nations will be successful with their mission of establishing additional refugee camps and that the Myanmar government will rethink their position of banishing the ethnic minority from their country state. Though I am not sure if public statements by the international community concerning the remaining of the Rohingyas will be efficient enough to pressure the Myanmar government to end the conflict and give peace to the ethnic minority living in Myanmar, so that they can have a better life in future.
Many say it is the most prestigious award in the world: the Nobel Peace Prize. Past recipients include Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. On 10 December 2012 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. The announcement on 10 October 2012 immediately led to mixed reactions among many in the world. This year’s award to the European Union adds to growing criticism over the choice of winners. What is the reason for the growing criticism? It also raises the question whether the Nobel Peace Prize still contributes to world peace in the way Alfred Nobel envisioned.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been bestowed to honor men and women from all over the world for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work on peace. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize. According to his will, which can be found on the official website of the Nobel Committee, the Nobel Prize must be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, after having been in office less than a year.
In the past, some of the Nobel Peace Committee’s selections have led to criticism of the prestigious prize. One of the controversial winners is for instance Henry Kissinger, who was awarded the prize in 1973 for his work on the Vietnam Peace Accords. According to a publication on the Time Magazine website published last year, critics said that Kissinger’s alleged involvement as Secretary of State in the U.S. bombing campaigns in Cambodia made a mockery of the prize. Let me remind you that the Vietnam War ended in 1975, so two years after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1973 the prize was awarded to two persons namely, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, North Vietnam’s chief negotiator at that time who declined the prize because “peace has not really been established.” According to the official Nobel Prize website, in 1973 two members of the Nobel peace committee resigned in protest of the award.
Another remarkable award winner is Barack Obama who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The reason it is remarkable is that he had only been in office for less than a year. According to Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, which aired on 12 December 2012, the award was controversial because Obama led a country that was at war with Iraq and Afghanistan and was about the increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1997, states in a documentary presented by the Nobel Prize Organization, which aired on 5 April 2011 that the prize should be awarded for accomplishment and not for good intensions. Williams also mentions that it should be about concrete change and not about a vision of change. However, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, says that the award for Barack Obama is not too early, but it can be too late if the award was given in three years. Many in the world had and have high expectations from President Obama and the somewhat unfortunate statement of Jagland gives the impression that Obama needed to have a push in the back. However, predicting the future regarding US’s military operations is too vigorously, looking at the country’s history.
The announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 led to protests in Oslo, Norway.
The final winner of the prize that needs to be highlighted is of course the European Union. The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. According to International Peace Bureau, four laureates, namely the International Peace Bureau, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, protested against the EU prize as unlawful. The timing is quite unfortunate because the EU is still in an economic crisis which leads to driving up poverty levels in countries such as Spain and Greece and, according to a publication on the CNN website of 16 April 2012, the crisis has led to nationalism in European and as a result to anti-European sentiments countries. However, Europe has a rich history of war for many centuries and after World War Two, the countries has established fraternity by setting up the European Union. In October 2012, in an interview with The Financial Times, Mr. Jagland noted that, “we want to focus on what has been achieved in Europe in terms of peace and reconciliation”.
The organization behind the Nobel Prize acknowledges the controversy of some winners and tries to refute this by stating that choosing the winner is up to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and admits that this committee is not completely independent because it consist only Norwegian citizens but respects the outcome of their decision. In addition, the nominees are published no less than 50 years after the ceremony and process. This leads to choosing the winner is kept secret. In my opinion, the mentioned Nobel Peace Prize winners are not aligned with the visionary of Alfred Nobel nor with the other Nobel Peace Prize laureates. It seems that the intentions of the Norwegian Nobel Committee are good but continuing awarding controversial people or organizations that lead to such revolt does indeed affect the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize. However, the controversy can also be seen as evidence how much the prize is valued. There is lots of debate and criticism in some years, but criticizing the Nobel Prize has been going on for many years and it still remains the world most prestigious prize. The prize helps to shine a big light on issues and conflicts that people are not aware of and that is most valuable. The limelight should not be taken away from the winners in the previous years that entirely earn such prestige award.
Ajmal Kasab caught at the day of the massacre in Mumbai
India has administered justice. Four years after Pakistani militants attacked west India’s economic heart in Mumbai, and killed 166 international people, the only surviving assassin was executed on November 21 in a prison close to Mumbai. 25-year-old Pakistani Ajmal Kasab was hanged, after been charged with murder and sentenced to death in 2010. A plea for mercy requested by the defense of Kasab, stated by the youth of the 22-year-old Pakistani militant back then, was rejected by India’s President Pranab Mukherjee in November this year. The prosecutor had described Kasab as “agent of the devil.” R.R. Patil, Secretary of the Interior of the state of Mumbai, said about the execution “This is a true homage to the innocent victims, including police and security forces who gave their lives”.
Who is behind the terrible attack on Mumbai, and what happened in the past?
As Kasab confirmed his participation in a Pakistani radical Islamic militant group, India accuses Lashkar-e-Taiba behind the massacre of Mumbai in 2008. “Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure, is one of the most feared groups fighting against Indian control in Kashmir and is blamed for several deadly attacks on Indian soil”, the BBC summarizes about the militant group in “Profile: Lashkar-e-Taiba”, May 2010.
Since the states of India and Pakistan were created by the bloody partition of British India in 1947, they have fought three wars over the province of Kashmir. India insists that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan on the other hand insists that Kashmir is a disputed territory. A large number of Kashmir’s civilians though do insist that Kashmir is a disputed territory and demand self-determination. By today, after more than six decades, the Kashmir conflict still continues, and sympathies for Lashkar-e-Taiba and an anti-Indian culture run deeply in Pakistan.
Civilians demonstrating for a free Kashmir
Therefore, a militant group fighting India does not seem surprising to me, its origin however does. In the 1980s, Lashkar-e-Taiba was originated by the Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), to challenge Indian control in Kashmir. In January 2002, after joining the U.S. “Anti-Terrorism Campaign”, Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba and assured that it will not support any operating violent groups. Nevertheless, Lashkar-e-Taiba is reported to have several training camps and keeps on recruiting militants within Pakistan. Although Lashkar-e-Taiba did not claim responsibility for the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, a subsequent investigation by the Pakistan government found out that its members had been involved in planning and carrying out those attacks. Moreover, according to the New York Times article “Lashkar-e-Taiba” from November 21, “Mumbai attackers were part of groups trained by former Pakistani military and intelligence officials at Lashkar camps. Some people of the ISI knew about the plan with Mumbai and closed their eyes”. Does this mean that Pakistan secretly knew about the planning of the massacre, and did nothing about it? Nevertheless, after the attacks on Mumbai, India had broken off peace talks with its warring neighbor Pakistan.
By today, while both countries possess nuclear weapons, the situation has luckily improved a little. Recently, Pakistan has “ratified an agreement with India to allow six-month visitors visas, one of many steps in the two nations’ growing ties”, Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, confirmed in the New York Times’ article “India Executes Pakistani Gunman Involved in 2008 Attacks on Mumbai” on November 21.
In India, after the announcement of Ajmal Kasab’s execution, people went celebrating on the streets. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Ali Khan’s reaction on Kasab’s death was cited by the BBC as “We condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestation… We are willing to co-operate and work closely with all countries of the region to eliminate the scourge of terrorism”. This shows that for India, one dramatic chapter of their history just been closed up.
One could think that the situation would escalate again with the death of Ajmal Kasab. Though, both governments seem calm for the moment. However, so does not the Taliban and “Lashkar-e-Taiba”: they recently announced their revenge on Ajmal Kasab’s death, by new attacks and massacres within India.
As the Kashmir conflict is still going on, and with the execution of Ajmal Kasab, I believe the conflict between Pakistan and India is far away from being over. Hopefully they are able to fight their same enemy in future that is called: terrorism.