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Austerity and It's Impacts on Britain

BY Rohan Shivalkar 2017-07-19

Austerity is constantly being bandied about the media, and has become a typical part of political vocabulary since its introduction by the coalition government in 2010 under David Cameron. The Economist’s definition of austerity is ‘a situation in which there is not much money’ and government revenue ‘is spent only on things that are necessary.’ In this respect, the fundamental idea is that government borrowing is unsustainable, and in order to reduce the structural deficit, austerity has to be enforced to ‘balance the books’ and ultimately aid the recovery of the economy after the financial crash in 2008; avoiding the imminent risk of becoming another Greece.

 

Almost a decade on, we still see austerity measures in place and its subsequent effects rippling throughout the economy. Prime Minister, Theresa May insists that Britain needs to live within its means, especially with Brexit looming and the uncertainty which surrounds it all. In this article I will explore the effects of austerity on ordinary citizens of the UK and conclude as to whether it is still necessary in today’s economic climate. There is a clear disagreement in Westminster as the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, insists that austere measures are unnecessary and are not only damaging the middle-class but also the most vulnerable in society.

 

In light of the current anti-austerity mood surrounding the new House of Commons, there has been continual pressure on the Conservative party to scrap the 1% a year pay cap imposed by George Osborne since 2013. After the heroics of the emergency services following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is apparent that you cannot budget with regard to safety and security; seven years of cuts to emergency services in particular has seemingly increased our vulnerability. The wage ceiling has been said to have affected around five million public sector workers who have seen their median hourly earnings drop in real terms by almost 6% between 2005 and 2015, with some sectors suffering more drops than others.

 

Some would argue that austerity has had a greater effect on minority demographics who are more likely to be employed in the public sector, in low paid jobs and insecure work. The teaching profession has seen an average pay fall by £3 an hour in real terms and police officers by £2 an hour, whilst pay for nurses has stagnated. Funding towards education has seen a significant decrease and the effects are plain to see. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: ‘Adding inadequate pay to the toxic mix of stress and overwork is likely to lead to even more teachers quitting. Even before this announcement more than 50,000 teachers left in the past year.’

 

Austerity has coincided with massive reforms of the GCSE and A Level courses where exam boards have written new courses and published expensive resources to go with them which represents a significant transfer of public funds into the private sector. In many cases, schools are unable to afford new materials because of tight budgets which jeopardises the futures of students who are not given a chance to reach their full capabilities. With productivity in this country already falling behind the likes of Germany and the US, not investing in education will almost certainly create long term structural problems which could be of detriment to UK GDP and international competitiveness.

 

The most surprising aspect about this whole situation is that Theresa May has managed to flesh out a whopping one billion pounds in the confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party despite asserting that there was ‘no magic money tree’. This surely means that a review of funding for public sector wages, schooling and social care should be carried out? What is more audacious is politicians have seen a salary rise whilst public sector workers, who arguably deserve it more, face a continued cap. Despite Chancellor Philip Hammond suggesting that the pay policy has not changed and there is a need to strike the ‘right balance’, it increasingly seems like the typical jargon spewed by politicians who do not understand the effect their policies are having on people’s lives. With inflation rising at an unprecedented rate since the crash, this means that household spending power will fall which may greatly affect the standard of living of those public sector workers whose income is capped. Pay is not only the issue of austerity that is causing tension for the government; local authorities are being continually squeezed, and approximately 75p in every £1 of central government funding by 2020 will be cut.

 

Research has shown that budget cuts and sanctions against benefits claimants is linked to increasing use of food banks. In a twelve month period from 2014-2015, over a million people in the UK had used a food bank representing a 19% year-on-year increase in food bank use. Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food bank network recently reported that it gave out a record 1.2 million food parcels to families and individuals in need in 2016-17, the ninth successive year in which demand has risen. The spread of food banks demonstrates the growing problems of poverty and hunger across the UK and in this respect it is a shame that Theresa May has simply brushed off the increased use of food banks by claiming that there were ‘many complex reasons’ why people use them.

 

According to an investigation conducted by the United Nations into Children's rights in the UK, austerity and welfare cuts are causing poverty and inequality. By 2020 it is estimated that there will be a 50% increase in child poverty; not only is this an issue in itself but there is plenty of evidence linking poverty to crime and we could well see the rate of criminal activity soar in the coming years. Affected families are expected to be around £300 million worse off in 2017-18, hitting singles mothers, the disabled and ethnic minorities the hardest, whilst threatening at least 100,000 households with homelessness and poverty. The continued stigma surrounding benefits claimants and the culture of ‘scrounging and laziness’ is having a damning effect on those who actually need support from the state.

  

Austerity has undoubtedly touched the lives of many households across Britain who have experienced both the direct and indirect consequences such as the lack of investment in housing which have seen house prices become unaffordable and the stagnation of wages which have fallen behind inflation. Coupled with the sharp decline in the rate of starting social rental schemes and increasingly risky loans, it is harder than ever for first time buyers to get onto the property ladder, especially with accumulated debts from higher education. Most macro-economists now agree that the austerity programme pursued by the coalition government in its first two years was both too severe and unnecessary, reducing GDP and costing the average household £4000 over the lifetime of the parliament as well as damaging public services which were not ring-fenced. Economist and author, Ha-Joon Chang, writing in 2017, observed that ‘in today's UK economy, whose underlying stagnation has been masked only by the release of excess liquidity on an oceanic scale, some deficit spending may be good, necessary even’.

 

We are coming up to a difficult period in Britain's history with Brexit negotiations already underway, and it would seem counterproductive to fully oust austerity but people cannot be squeezed forever and it makes sense for the government to rethink some of their policies. A cease of the 1% pay cap would have been welcomed and would have almost certainly seen an increase in the growth of the economy, which is growing at a measly 0.2%. Many public sector workers are seeing their incomes rise slower than inflation and this policy change would have gone some way in changing that. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson agreed that a public sector pay rise can be achieved in a 'responsible way' and 'without causing fiscal pressures'. It has been proved many a time before that if the need is great enough, the ‘magic money tree’ appears and therefore it is up to the Conservative government to make a decision on whether they think that education, emergency services and welfare for the most vulnerable in society are important enough.

 

Written by Rohan Shivalkar; Economics and Political Science, University of Birmingham.

Appointment of new No.10 Chief of Staff will be crucial to PM May’s resurgence in popularity

BY Pranav Bhanot 2017-06-27

Whether it was the tram collision, knife crime or youth violence, speak to anyone from Croydon and they will undoubtedly defend their area to their wits end which often unfairly attracts substantial amounts of negative press. However, one of the greatest success stories to come of Croydon in recent weeks must be the appointment of the new No.10 Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell. The unassuming, slightly baby faced family man who as a young man battled and survived cancer, will now play an instrumental role in guiding Prime Minister May with her post-election battles to ensure she survives her renewed five-year tenure. The past two months have heralded turbulent times for the Prime Minister but appointing an extremely well liked and creative tactician will no doubt reinvigorate operations in Downing Street.  Gavin’s belief in liberal Conservatism, commitment to the NHS and ability to mobilise positive and powerful campaigns have no doubt all played a role in making him the chief of choice.

 

 

Gavin’s liberal Conservativism

 

The recent election period showed the drastic lacuna that exists in our tribal based political system. The political parties on the left and right seemed to edge closer to the extremities of their respective poles. With everything to fight for in the middle ground, Mr Barwell’s commitment to liberal Conservativism could prove decisive in influencing policy to narrow the gap between the Right and the Left. During his time as an MP, Gavin has shown his graft in campaigning in support of a higher living wage, tackling tax dodgers, promoting full employment, educational equality, fairer immigration, school standards as well as voting for same sex marriage. If there is something we can learn from across the Channel, France’s Macron didn’t go too far wrong by advocating a more centrist approach. In turn, the Conservatives may be minded to follow a similar game plan.

 

 

Gavin’s commitment to the NHS

 

The Labour Party spin doctors have actively and repetitively designated Labour as the party for the NHS with the Conservatives being the dismantlers. Downing Street is now being led by an individual whose commitment to the NHS is personal. The NHS saved Gavin’s life as a cancer patient, provided outstanding care to his dad at the end of his life and Gavin’s wife works for the NHS. As an MP, Gavin voted for increases in the NHS budget, got Croydon a fairer share of that budget and was campaigning to get a new accident and emergency in his local area. Gavin’s real and current life experience of the NHS can only be a massive positive as far as future policy development is concerned both practically and perceptually.

 

 

Gavin’s ability mobilise a positive and powerful campaign

 

Having previously run a successful inner city marginal seat campaign to become an MP, Gavin certainly knows a thing or two about winning elections in hostile territory. With more London based constituencies electing Labour MPs, the lessons Gavin learnt during his 2015 parliamentary election fight may assist the Conservatives with winning back some key London seats. Gavin’s “golden rules” for campaign strategies include focusing on the things you can influence; keeping a campaign as positive as possible about the opponent; mobilising a range of supporters to canvass irrespective of class, age or race; demonstrating humbleness and earning the respect from parliamentary colleagues; maintaining a balance between national and local campaigns as well as balancing the personal brand with the national messaging on the campaign trail. These golden rules as set out in Gavin’s book “How to win a marginal seat” could prove decisive if rolled out and implemented by prospective parliamentary candidates at the next election.   

 

 

Gavin now has the ear of the Prime Minister. If the chief’s experience, energy and belief system is taken with the seriousness it deserves in influencing the decision making and operations behind the black door of Number 10, it will only be a matter of time until we see PM May’s resurgence in popularity. 

Grenfell Tower Fire – What needs to happen now and what you can do to help. 

BY Bryony Foale 2017-06-16

We all woke up to the horrendous news on Wednesday morning about the fire in Grenfell Tower, West London. We watched the local residents’ distressing accounts, reports of mothers throwing their children out of windows to save them and footage of trapped residents who have not been seen sincewill be etched in our minds. But imagine if you witnessed the tragedy first hand. Imagine if you lived in a similar block of flats. Imagine if you know your building has the same cladding stuck on its exterior that reportedly burned like a matchstick… What if you were one of the residents who didn’t wake up on Wednesday morning?  

 

 

Over the course of this week we have read and seen countless reports on what should have been done to prevent this awful tragedy. Theresa May’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, has come under question over his time as Housing Minister. Reportedly, a review of fire safety in tower blocks had been delayed for years. Why had this review not been a priority and why had it not been addressed by Gavin Barwell or any of the previous housing minsters? There had been calls for a review since 2009 when six people lost their lives in the Lakanal House, Camberwell blaze. Why did more residents have to die for fire safety to be taken seriously? These are questions that need answering and it will now fall on the newly appointed Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Alok SharmaMP, to make fire safety an urgent priority. As I write this, Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the fire which has killed at least 30 people, with the death toll expected to rise significantly

 

 

What has also surfaced since this tragedy is how the local residents’ concerns about their own safety were ignored. Grenfell Action Group has shared a list of blogs previously posted, warning of the poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Towers and other areas.

A list of previous posts can be read here

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/grenfell-tower-fire/

 

 

It is clear lessons need to be learnt and it is harrowing that concerns were not taken seriously. For many, it is too late to say lessons need to be learnt and the incident has left questions over whether the residents’ concerns were ignored due to the fact they were working class. Was the cladding erected because the building was an eyesore to the tower blocks richer neighbors? Were safety issues ignored when the building was refurbished to save money? So many social issues have come to light from this incident that need to be addressed and questioned. 

 

 

What has also come out of this tragedy are reports of bravery and compassion from the British public. Londoners have offered food and shelter to those affected and the emergency services have worked tirelessly. Unfortunately, in these situations a lot of us feel powerless and although we are limited to what we can do to help, donations are important and making your voice heard can make a difference. Below are a few links detailing ways you can help.

 

 

Sign a petition  This petition calls for all tenants of Grenfell Tower to be rehomed: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/rehome-all-tenants-of-grenfell-tower

 

This petition is asking for it to be a legal requirement for all high-rise buildings to have adequate fire safety measures installed: https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-sprinklers-to-be-fitted-in-to-all-high-rise-buildingsutm_source=action_alert_sign&utm_

medium=email&utm_campaign=762200&alert_id=pJopQXzODh_WL6AdKPz0mkZU4D7NdAkdSF8k

Dmjysds0Wzxuw1JfXo%3D

 

Donate  The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation are taking donations for those affected: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/kandcfoundation/grenfell-tower

 

What you can do to help: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/40272565/grenfell-tower-fire-this-is-what-you-can-do-to-help

 

Write to your local MP: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

INDIA

Why is China provoking its neighbours: India, Bhutan and Japan?

BY Mrutyuanjai Mishra 2017-07-31

China makes territorial claims in almost all countries surrounding its large territory - Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, India, and now Bhutan. In 2016, even Singapore seriously criticised China for interfering in ASEAN´s internal affairs. China has been belligerent in encroaching on more and more territory and has had deals with countries like Pakistan, which has voluntarily given access to some of its territory in exchange for military hardware.  For a long time, the US has been accusing China of militarising the South China Sea.

Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, in a crystal clear judgement, ruled that China had no historical right over the South China Sea. Instead, Beijing was in for a rebuke for violating the Philippines' right to sovereignty. But nothing has altered the course of events since the judgement was passed last year. In the case of North Korea, the Trump administration has tried in the last few weeks to persuade China to rein in Kim Jong Un´s provocations and ambition of carrying out nuclear tests. It is possible that America might seriously consider penalising the Chinese companies that are violating UN sanctions on North Korea, and thereby helping it in achieving its goal of attaining nuclear weapons. An arms deal with Taiwan would be another measure taken by US to counter aggressive Chinese behaviour in the region.


The rise of China has primarily been seen as one of the positive developments of the twenty-first century. However, now with the latest developments, the question is if China is clandestinely trying to topple the United States as the leading power of the world. Several historians like Niall Ferguson have already written that the descent of the West will be superseded by the ascent of the East. In other words, China´s clout is growing both in economic and military fields.

So far we have only seen a growing anxiety among China´s neighbours, and the so-called peaceful rise of China is turning out to be a falsification. It is turning out to be a delusion that China will assume the global leadership, as the European leaders momentarily believed when the US withdrew from the Paris climate deal. China is not going to take the global leadership on climate change and show acumen for international diplomacy when it is embroiled in a territorial conflict with almost all of its neighbours. Bhutan is now the latest in the row. The left-leaning newspapers of the West have been utterly naïve in assuming that a one-party dictatorship in China will show leadership to the democracies of the world. A country that jails dissidents, tortures it Nobel prize winner, threatens anyone who demands a small reform in democracy, cannot be expected to be a global leader. China is now facing a barrage of international criticism for jailing the country´s only Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, who died a few weeks ago. Liu Xiaobo was the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in jail since 1938, a clear indication that the future of human rights in China is bleak and no improvement has occurred despite international pressure.


Several opinion polls conducted in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and India indicate that people at large are increasingly getting sceptical of China´s belligerent policy of undermining the interests of many of its neighbours. For the past month, Chinese and Indian troops are caught up in a dispute that China now has with Bhutan. Bhutan has asked for Indian assistance because the Chinese were building a base and a road, in an area claimed by Bhutan. Since Bhutan is a very small country, it relies on India for its support in defence and security issues. China wants Indian troops to withdraw unilaterally and India demands the same - that the Chinese withdraw from a region that has a tremendous strategic importance, not only for Bhutan but for India as well.


This area of contention which is claimed by Bhutan is called Doklam, and now it is turning out to be the most serious crisis between the two nuclear powers India and China. The Chinese insist on continuing their road construction and India wants them to halt that road construction and to start a peace process. This is just one more conflict among many other skirmishes involving China and many of its neighbours.

The United States, Japan, Australia and India, which are all democracies, are increasing their co-operation, but the trouble is the lack of support from the European Union. Many EU countries have made lucrative deals with China, giving it unhindered access to their markets. The European Union, too, needs to ask a pertinent question: if the rule of democracy and abolition of the death penalty are an absolute condition to be fulfilled for joining the EU, then why are there double standards applied to China?

Why is China allowed to get away with giving more death penalties to dissidents than any other country in the world? When China usurped Tibet, we kept silent, when it threatened Taiwan, when it threatened Japan, Hongkong, and now Bhutan, we keep on remaining silent. Is there any doubt left that China is supporting rogue states like North Korea and Pakistan, only to give massive problems to the West while embarking on its mission of superseding the United States?

The European Union and UK can do much more to insist that the universal values like human rights and democracy, which are good for their citizens, are also good for people in Asia.

Celebrate Heroes, Not Terrorists

BY Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East 2017-07-13

As London and Manchester recover from recent terror attacks, we now hear of a gruesome attack on the Amarnath pilgrims in Anantnag, Jammu & Kashmir in India. The group, who were on their annual pilgrimage, were mostly from Gujarat.

 

This was yet another attempt by terrorists to disrupt a most revered pilgrimage for Hindus. As I write this article, I reflect that today, 13th July, marks the anniversary of the first ever organised communal slaughter in the recorded history of modern Kashmir, which took place in 1931. Hundreds of Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) were looted, attacked, raped, molested and forcibly converted to Islam. Yet here we are, 86 years later, still witnessing horrendous attacks on innocent Hindus in the region.

 

The recent terror attack on Westminster Bridge saw ordinary men and women stepping in to save lives and help protect each other, and PC Keith Palmer gave his life valiantly standing between the terrorist attacker and the hundreds of people working inside the Houses of Parliament. The bus carrying the Amarnath pilgrims also saw the emergence of an ordinary hero, Salim, the bus driver who, despite being attacked, made sure that the bus didn’t stop and this helped minimise the casualties.

 

In sharp contrast to the actions of these heroes, there have been unfortunate attempts to celebrate and glorify terrorists such as Burhan Wani, not just in streets of downtown Kashmir, but in the heart of busy cities of United Kingdom. The recent attempt to celebrate Burhan Wani day in Birmingham was a direct challenge to the very fabric of the UK’s harmony and principles of tolerance. No sooner than this permission was sought by protestors, in the name of holding a peace rally, the permission for it was withdrawn by the local council following complaints – a move I welcome wholeheartedly as a step in the right direction in curbing the propagation of a mindset that is evil and spreads hatred.  

 

As the Member of Parliament for a constituency that is a melting pot of world ethnicities and cultures, I fully reject any attempts to radicalise and brainwash young people into celebrating an ideology that teaches hatred and violence.

 

The mastermind behind the Amarnath pilgrim attack, Abu Ismail, is a Pakistani national and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist with direct links to Salahuddin and Hizbul Mujahideen, the jihadist terror group which was recently added to the list of Specially Designated Global terrorists by the US. It is no coincidence that there are close commonalities and linkages between each of these organisations and the individuals supporting their activities, directly or indirectly.

 

Burhan Wani was certainly no local hero in Kashmir and deserves no praise anywhere. He was a self-styled commander of the Pakistan-supported Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) jihadist terror group whose leader, Syed Salahuddin has just been added (June 27, 2017), by the US Department of State to its list of Specially Designated Global terrorists. The US Department of State designated Salahuddin because he “vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley ‘into a graveyard for Indian forces.'”

 

Salahuddin maintains an office in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and receives support from Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Salahuddin is also Chairman of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella organization that includes HM and also the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, two groups that are on the US and United Nations lists of terror organizations.

 

I have tabled an early day motion in Parliament to urge the Government to take severe measures to curb any such activity that supports terrorism in the UK or in other parts of the world, especially India.

 

The EDM reads:

 

“That this House condemns the recent killings of innocent Hindu pilgrims in Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir in India; recognises it as a gruesome attack on innocent pilgrims by Lashkar-e-Toiba, an internationally recognised terrorist group, led by Abu Ismail; urges the UK government to strongly condemn the attack and stand with India in the fight against terrorism; further seeks the UK government to investigate if there are any direct or indirect links to organisations or individuals in the United Kingdom that may be involved in such cross border atrocities in India; urges the Government to reject all forms of terrorism and support to organisations/individuals propagating such ideology and to take strong action against such organisations and individuals in the UK to ensure peace in UK as well as India.”

 

I commend my colleague, Mark Field MP, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth office, for his tweet condemning the gruesome attack on the pilgrims in Anantnag. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “Enough is enough”, and that the counter-terrorism strategy will ensure that the police and security services have all the power they need to tackle this attack on the fundamentals of our democracy.

 

Any fight against terrorism is incomplete without the active support from people and their elected representatives so I urge all my colleagues and their constituents to come together in this fight against terrorism and reject all efforts to glorify terrorists and radicalise the youth.

 

The United Kingdom stands together with its friends, especially India, in this fight against terrorism. 

The Continuing Persecution of Hindus in Kashmir

BY Prerna Lau Sian 2017-07-12

On the 10th July, the first day of the Hindu holy month of Shravan, Hindu pilgrims returning from the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, were targeted in a despicable act of Islamist terrorism. Reports have said that a bus carrying pilgrims got separated from the convoy it was moving with, when terrorists riding bikes opened fire. The terrorists killed six women and one man and injured 32 others.

 

 

Whilst this is a clear and targeted act of terror against Hindus, the media and rhetoric surrounding this attack so far has been abhorrent and adds further insult to the precious lives lost. Instead of an outcry against such a gruesome act of terror, media reports are focusing on the fact that the bus wasn’t registered and shouldn’t have been on the road after the 7pm deadline. Little is spoken of the motive behind this attack and instead, the innocent pilgrims and the bus are supposedly at fault.

 

 

The BBC has gone even further where in the following article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-40561511 the attack is brushed off as an apparent “cross-fire” and that Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had nothing to do with it. This is hugely contradictory and belittles the statement made by Jammu and Kashmir's Inspector General of Police, Muneer Khan, who said to ANI news agency that the terror attack was carried out by the LeT and was masterminded by a Pakistani terrorist Abu Ismail. It is ironic that this BBC article managed to include the term “Hardline Hindu groups” when referring to the need for tougher action to be taken against terrorist groups in the region. Shouldn’t all religions and groups be against such acts of terrorism? Why is it that when Hindus fairly demand equal rights and the freedom to practise their religion, some media outlets brand them as “right-wing fundamentalists” and “saffron-clad hardliners”, however when Hindus are attacked, the actual hardliners and terrorists are simply labelled as separatists and freedom fighters.

 

 

The bottom line is that Hindus have rights too. The right to practise their religion and visit their holy sites free of fear and intimidation. When Hindus are targeted as part of an attack, the rest of the world stays silent. However, when members of other religions are killed in India, there is a huge outcry and the world shuns India of being “intolerant” and targets Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

 

It is evident that the forced exodus and extermination of Hindus in Kashmir is still ongoing having started in the 14th Century. Sikandar Butshikan, the second Sultan of the Shah Miri dynasty of Kashmir, was known as "Sikandar the Iconoclast" due to his cruel desecration and destruction of temples and holy places of Hindus and Buddhists. He forbade Hindus to pray, apply a tilak or even ring a bell. Sikandar also issued orders banning the residence of non-Muslims in Kashmir and ensured that Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam or were massacred if they refused.

 

 

In modern times, the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 led to the exodus of 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits from the valley and since then, attacks have continued to be carried out on Hindu pilgrims:

 

  • 2nd August 2000 - terrorists opened fire killing on Amarnath pilgrims killing over 89 people

 

  • 20th July 2001 - a militant hurled two grenades at a camp and later opened fire near the Amarnath shrine

 

  • 30th 2002 -  two pilgrims were killed and three injured when militants hurled grenades at a taxi in Srinagar which was on its way to the Amarnath cave base camp

 

  • 6th August 2002 - three LeT terrorists opened fire inside the Pahalgam base camp, killing nine people and injuring 27

 

  • 21st June 2006 - at least five people were injured when terrorists hurled a grenade at a bus carrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims from a base camp to Srinagar.

 

 

The ongoing persecution of Hindus in Kashmir is a vital issue which needs urgent addressing once and for all. Despite a heavy security presence in the area and the fact that Indian forces have captured many Islamist militants in the area, terrorists are still able to slip through the net and camouflage themselves within the local community. It is about time that we all stood up against the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in the valley no matter which religion we belong too, as ALL religions have the right to visit their holy shrines undisturbed.

MIDDLE EAST

THE CRISIS IN QATAR FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE MIDDLE EAST, THE WEST AND TURKEY

BY Ahsen Melek Kocatürk 2017-07-15

The political tension, which emerged unexpectedly in the month of Ramadan and has been ongoing among some of the Gulf countries, occupies a top spot on the World’s agenda.

 

To recall, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain and later Yemen, Maldives, Mauritania and The Comoros Islands declared on 5th June to suspend their diplomatic relations with Qatar due to their claim that Qatar is supporting terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, DAESH and Al Qaida. These countries announced that they decided by decree to withdraw their diplomats in Qatar. Additionally, they wanted the Qatari diplomats and Qatari citizens in their countries to leave within 48 hours and 14 days respectively, as well as suspending land, air and sea transportation with Qatar.

 

Moreover, in a joint declaration issued by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain on 9th June, 59 people and 12 organizations residing in or related with Qatar were claimed to be “connected to terror” and it was declared that they were taken into “the terror list”. In the list where members of the ruling family in Qatar are seen to be present, names like President of the World Union of Muslim Scouts, Egyptian Yusul El Karadavi and Abdullah bin Halid El Sani who acted as the Minister of Internal Affairs in Qatar during 2012-2013 draws particular attention.

 

On 23rd June, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain submitted through a joint decision, a list of 13 demands which allowed 10 days for Qatar to respond through Kuwait. When this list is carefully examined, one observes that it involves items that interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign country, such as the request to shut down the Turkish military base in Qatar and to annually audit the agreement that is to be reached with Qatar. Moreover, the list includes a demand to shut down the Al Jazeera television network which is against the freedom of press in international relations. On the other hand, while it is recommended by the four countries that Qatar ends its commercial and economic relations with Iran, the fact that 8000 companies of Iranian origin have been active in the UAE is rather hard to explain.

 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir indicated in his announcement on 27th June that the list delivered to Qatar is not subject to discussion and that Qatar should meet all demands stated on this list. The statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar on 5th June declared that the decision taken by the aforementioned countries is deeply saddening, the statements made by these countries rely on baseless and unjustified claims, there is no legitimate justification for any of the decrees taken, the main aim of these steps is to exert pressure on Qatar and that this situation is clear in breach of the right of sovereignty, in contrast to the Charter of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The same statement also announced that Qatar will take all necessary measures so that its citizens will not be affected by this crisis.

 

Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Muhammed bin Abdurrahman Al Thani has recently made a statement indicating that there are international laws that should not be breached and borders that should not be trespassed, that they are ready to face all the consequences and in this regard, it is not possible to shut down the Turkish military base.

 

Qatari Minister of Finance Ali Sheriff Al Amadi stated that Qatar is far too rich to be threatened, the countries imposing an embargo on Qatar have negative credit rating notes, and that their financial status is inadequate, while in contrast Qatar is growing faster.

 

When the reasons triggering the crisis with Qatar are examined, it can be seen that the accusations of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt show variety. Qatar is accused of pursuing policies that are disruptive to regional security and stability, being in a maximalist structure in Egypt, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and thus endangering the future of monarchies in the region. In fact, given its radical and strong political standing in the region, both in economic and political domains and the political and economic policies it pursues, Qatar does disturbs monarchies in the region. Due to its support in favor of toppling authoritarian regimes in the Middle East throughout the Arab Spring, Qatar has started to be perceived as a threat by Saudi Arabia and the UAE from a realist approach, both of which are already weakening monarchical orders.

 

Beyond the foreign policy it pursues, Qatar, despite being a small country with an acreage of 11.500 km2, possesses significant oil and natural gas reserves. Qatar is the smallest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), yet receives 55% of all its income from the sale of natural gas and petroleum. In April 2017 Qatar re-started the drilling works in the Persian Gulf, the single largest field of natural gas in the World, which was suspended back in 2005. Qatar and Iran are located on the two opposite sides of the Persian Gulf. By activating their natural gas resources, Qatar and Iran, which follow common energy policies, have paved the way for a fall in the oil prices.

 

The US Administration is naturally not pleased with this development, as the natural gas field in the north of the Persian Gulf, which is to be operated by Qatar and Iran together, is a move that will negatively affect the shale gas exports of the US. Once perceived from this angle, this crisis can be better assessed together with the following questions “are all eyes on the natural resources of Qatar?” and “are the balances of power and natural resources in the world changing?”

 

Besides their geostrategic interests, Western powers have also been involved in this current crisis given their commercial interests and investments in Qatar. In this regard, it is striking that since the beginning of the crisis, contradicting statements were released by US officials. While the US President Donald Trump made statements that place Qatar as a target in connection with accusations of Qatar’s support for terrorism, the US Department of State and the US Ministry of Defense released more balanced statements.

 

The UK, on the other hand, has called all parties involved, requested that tensions shall not be escalated, mediation efforts shall kick in and applauded the mediation efforts of the Amir of Kuwait. Looking at the crisis in Qatar through the lenses of the US and the UK, there seem to be different interests and calculations at stake. US President Trump has made his first official visit to the Middle East and returned home with agreements worth of billions of US Dollars, most of which are related to the defence industry. In fact, Qatar, which prefers to make investments in France and Germany, may have been put under pressure to sign the defence and economic collaboration agreement with the US worth 12 billion US Dollars.

 

Trump has chosen Qatar as his first target in order to break the effectiveness of the UK over the Gulf States. The UK may not wish to share Qatar with another country given its rich natural gas resources and geopolitical location. It is expected that the UK will have to act in Middle East under such circumstances. According to a famous saying “a leader is not the one marching at the front, but the one leading the way”. A role of support for reconciliation emerges here for all countries.

 

Turkey, which returned to the region with its smart power given the multi-track pro-active foreign policy it pursues since 2002 and which established friendly relationships with the Gulf States in recent years, has undoubtedly been affected from the current crisis with Qatar. Two main factors affecting Turkey are the potential damage of friendly relations between Turkey and many of the Gulf States and Turkey’s military base in Qatar in accordance with the agreement signed in 2014.

 

Regarding the Turkish military base in Qatar which is included the 13-item list of demands, a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey indicated that the Turkish military base in Qatar aims for the protection of regional peace, safety and stability with the Gulf Cooperation Council and as is the case with other foreign military bases or military elements in the countries of the region, the military presence of Turkey in Qatar is principally based on a decision taken by the two countries relying on their sovereign rights.

 

Being an important regional power, Turkey applied its soft power in the resolution of this crisis and engaged in mediation efforts, in addition to Kuwait. In this regard, while the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; the President of Turkey H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has engaged in telephone diplomacy with the related parties and internationally prominent leaders since the beginning of the crisis. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has explicitly stated that, given Turkey is the Summit Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), he shall maintain his responsibility in the name of protection of political and economic balances, establishment of peace and stopping terror in the Gulf region. He has reminded the parties involved in the Qatar crisis of their responsibilities, declared a strong support for Qatar and showed the entire World that he shall continue to establish stability in the region. This stance of President Erdoğan is directed towards negating the expectations of those that want to disrupt the region. In fact, speeding up the process for establishing the Turkish military base in Qatar can be perceived as a strategic move to counteract those wanting to rise tensions.

 

The current crisis with Qatar reminds all countries of the Middle East that they have important roles to play. The aim, target and expectations of all countries should be not to support terror under any circumstances, to cut the support given to terrorist entities, to determine policies in line with the economic and social order in the new global world order and to act accordingly with the common goals for the establishment of stability in the region. The prolonged wars of the past century in the Middle East, bloodshed and tears have caused people in the World to lose their trust in states and in societies living in this region. Of course, all countries in the World want to protect the order and maintain the stability of their countries. In international relations, it is important to adapt to the common system of the World and apply this system as much as possible.

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