The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 8-9

in January
The Nation Sunday, November 23, 2014 Pages 8-9
WOrld news
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ashington, United States (AFP)-
US
President Barack Obama will travel
to India in January for its Republic
Day celebrations and talks with
Prime Minister Narendra
Modi, the White House
said Friday.
His trip follows up on
Modi’s debut visit to
Washington as India’s
leader in September.
The
charismatic
Hindu
nationalist
prime minister has
been courted by the
United States as
a key partner in
its attempt to
rebalance US
diplomatic
weight
to-
ward Asia.
“ T h e
p r e s i -
d e n t
will
meet with the prime minister and Indian
officials to strengthen and expand the US-
India strategic partnership,” White House
press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Earnest did not give a precise date for the
trip, but Republic Day commemorates the
adoption of India’s constitution on January
26, 1950. TheWhite House said Obama would
be the first US president to attend India’s Re-
public Day celebration.
In November, the two countries reached
a breakthrough agreement in a bitter row
over food subsidies that for months had been
blocking a landmark global agreement to re-
duce trade barriers.
The deal marked a crucial step towards
the full implementation of a World Trade
Organization agreement reached in Decem-
ber 2013 in Bali, which would streamline
global customs procedures.
In September, Obama lauded Modi’s “en-
ergy and determination” as the two stressed
common goals -- and had a “candid” discus-
sion about the WTO’s Trade Facilitation
Agreement. Modi’s visit also allowed both
sides to repair the damage inflictedby a recent
series of spats, including a crisis last Decem-
ber when US authorities arrested and then
strip-searchedanIndiandiplomatinNewYork
for allegedlymistreating her housekeeper.
The warmwelcome struck a sharp contrast
to Modi’s previous treatment by Washington,
which refused him a visa in 2005 on human
rights grounds over anti-Muslim riots in his
home state of Gujarat.
Modi -- who won India’s biggest electoral
victory in three decades in the April-May
polls -- denies wrongdoing and was never
charged over the violence that killed more
than 1,000 people. India’s Republic Day
is marked by a massive, colorful parade
in New Delhi that celebrates the South
Asian country’s ethnic diversity -- and offers
it a chance to display its military hardware.
Each year, India hosts the leader of a
foreign country as guest of honor for
the parade. In recent years, guests
have included Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe and
Russian President Vladi-
mir Putin.
Meanwhile, a White
House press aide said
Friday Obama had
made a call to Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif
of India’s great rival
Pakistan.
“President Obama
and Prime Minister
Sharif
reaffirmed
the valued relation-
ship between the
two countries and
the importance of
the US-Pakistan
Strategic Dialogue
as a framework for
guiding the bilateral
relationship,”
Eric
Schultz said. The call
follows recent skir-
mishes between Paki-
stani and Indian troops
in disputed Kashmir,
which both countries
administer in part but
both claim in full.
Obama
to visit
India
Jakarta, Indonesia (AFP)-
Indonesia’s
newPresident JokoWidodo caused a stir this
weekend by opting to fly economy class towatch
his son’s high school graduation in Singapore,
drawing both praise and criticismonline.
Skipping the usual heavy security protocol
for heads of state, Widodo and his wife Iriana
queued for check-in at Jakarta airport like or-
dinary passengers before taking their economy
seats. Widodo is known for his common touch,
and his family havemaintained amodest life-
style since he became leader of Southeast Asia’s
biggest economy last month.
The presence of the president, known by his
nickname Jokowi, caused a buzz at Jakarta’s
airport as passengers shouted and clamoured
to shake his hand, with some taking selfies on
their phones.
Some, though, thought it was a publicity
stunt.
“Why should he go through themetal detector,
join the queue, etc? Sir, stop polishing your im-
age, just act natural,” RanggaAditya comment-
ed on news portal Detik.com.
HarryAzet tweeted: “Living a fake life is dif-
ficult: Jokowi went to Singapore flying economy
but slept in an expensive hotel.”
Widodo stayed in a five-star hotel onOrchard
Road, Singapore’s shoppingmecca, an Indone-
sian embassy spokesman in Singapore told
AFP.
But his choice to fly economy alsowonwide-
spread praise, withmany urging other govern-
ment officials to follow suit.
“Jokowi sets a good example by flying econ-
omy. Hopefully other officials can follow in his
footsteps,” tweetedAnita Tobing. Widodo said
he did not use the presidential private jet or the
VIP terminal because he was travelling for per-
sonal reasons “I amgoing for familymatters, a
private agenda, not a state visit -- sowhy should I
use the facility?”Widodo told reporters.
The president and his wife were in Singapore
to see their youngest son, 19-year-oldKaesang
Pangarep, graduate from the Anglo-Chinese
Indonesia’s new president
causes a buzz by flying economy
Kabul, Afghanistan
(AFP)-
Afghan women’s
rights campaigner Shukria
Barakzai speaks in a tired
whisper as she recovers in
hospital from an assassina-
tion attempt that nearly
killed her a week ago, but
her message is strong and
clear.
“I don’t want the women
of Afghanistan to be
scared,” she told
AFP
at
her bedside in Kabul.
“I am waiting for my
recovery and I will go back
(to work). And this time I
will work even harder than
before.
“This attack was an
attack on all women in
Afghanistan -- this is not
only on me.”
Barakzai, a 41-year-
old member of parlia-
ment, staggered from the
wrecked remains of her
car after it was hit by a
suicide bomber on a main
road near the parliament
last Sunday.
She was still carrying
her mobile phone and
handbags as she was led
away to safety, and she
appeared to have not been
seriously injured.
But the huge impact
of the blast, which killed
three nearby civilians, took
its toll and she is being
treated for shock as well as
for burns on her left hand.
Barakzai is one of the
most prominent female
activists in Afghanistan,
where women’s rights have
been at the centre of radi-
cal changes during 13 years
of international interven-
tion since the fall of the
Taliban regime in 2001.
Women, who were
confined to the home and
forced to wear all-encom-
passing burqas under the
Taliban, have secured more
freedoms, but Barakzai’s
pro-equality stance has
earned her a lot of en-
emies.
She has faced hostility
from many conservative
Muslim men and received
regular death threats from
Islamist groups, including
Taliban insurgents.
“I had lots of threats, but
this one was (nearly) suc-
cessful,” she said on Friday,
sitting up in her bed with
her outstretched hand cov-
ered in medical gauze.
“Am I such threat to
them? I’m just a women
working for women’s rights
in Afghanistan.
“I’m surprised that
the Taliban didn’t claim
responsibility (for the at-
tack)... It’s someone else.”
Progress under
threat? -
She says she doesn’t
know who targeted her,
but wonders if it could be
related to her support for
some US troops staying in
Afghanistan after NATO
combat operations finish at
the end of the year.
Or perhaps it might be
elements in neighbouring
Pakistan, which is often ac-
cused of fuelling violence
in Afghanistan.
“I’m outspoken, I’m very
clear,” she said. “I would be
very surprised if Pakistan
supports my activities.”
Female Afghan MP defiant
after suicide attack
Afghan women’s rights campaigner Shukria Barakzai receives
treatment in hospital
(AFP)
Beijing, China (AFP) -
China’s
central bank on Friday unexpectedly cut
benchmark interest rates for the first
time in more than two years, as authori-
ties seek to prop up flagging growth in
the world’s second-largest economy.
The cut comes after a string of disap-
pointing data showing that the Chinese
economy -- a key driver of global expan-
sion -- is struggling with stalling factory
growth, soft exports and a weakening
property market.
China’s economy expanded 7.3 percent
in the July-September quarter, down
from 7.5 percent in the previous three
months and the slowest since 2009 at the
height of the global financial crisis.
The People’s Bank of China slashed
its one-year rate for deposits by 25 basis
points to 2.75 percent and its one-year
lending rate by 40 basis points to 5.6
percent, both effective Saturday, a state-
ment said.
The announcement was made too
late for Asian markets, but gave a sharp
boost to trading in Europe, where
investors were already encouraged by
the European Central Bank signalling
its readiness to extend support to the
economy to deter deflation.
London closed up 1.08 percent, Paris
rose 2.67 percent and Frankfurt gained
2.62 percent.
Meanwhile, Wall Street was up moder-
ately in afternoon New York trading.
China’s interest rate cuts are the first
since the summer of 2012, when the
PBoC slashed rates in the month of June
and then again in July.
“This is a clear ‘step up’ in the inten-
sity of monetary policy easing and is
likely a response to the strong head-
winds from the property market correc-
tion and the limited potency of previous
measures amid the highly leveraged
economy,” Nomura economists wrote in
a reaction to the cuts.
China had since April used a series of
limited measures to underpin growth,
including targeted cuts in reserve re-
quirements -- the amount of funds banks
must put aside -- and a 500 billion yuan
($81.6 billion) injection into the coun-
try’s five biggest banks for re-lending.
Analysts, however, said recent weak-
ening economic indicators, including for
manufacturing and industrial output,
had pressured authorities to take bigger
steps.
“The PBoC is forced to realise that
China’s economy is slowing down signif-
icantly, deflationary risk is rising fast,”
ANZ economist Liu Li-Gang told
AFP.
International School on Friday evening.
The couple have two other children.
Widodo had breakfast with Singa-
pore’s PrimeMinister Lee Hsien Loong
before flying back to Jakarta on Satur-
daymorning.
Central Bank cuts interest rates to prop
Beijing’s flagging Economy
Bangkok, Thailand (AFP)-
Thai-
land’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej
missed a planned meeting with two gov-
ernment ministers, palace officials said,
amid ongoing public concern over the
state of the ailing 86-year-old’s health.
The two ministers were supposed to
accompany junta leader General Prayut
Chan-O-Cha to meet the world’s longest
serving monarch on Friday evening to
swear an oath in front of him before tak-
ing up office. But the palace said his med-
ical team had advised against the king
going ahead with the ceremony.
“A team of royal physicians recom-
mended that the king is not ready to
grant an audience. Therefore the date
of the royal audience is postponed,” a
statement from the Royal Household Bu-
reau said late Friday. The elderly king
has suffered from a series of ailments in
recent years and is treated as a near-de-
ity in Thailand. In early October he was
rushed from his palace in the southern
seaside resort of Hua Hin to a Bangkok
hospital, where he underwent an opera-
tion to remove his gall bladder and has
remained admitted since.
Ailing Thai King unable
to meet ministers
Washington, United States (AFP)-
China
is building a massive island in the South Chi-
na Sea that could host an airfield in an area
where Beijing is locked in bitter territorial
disputes with neighboring states, a US mili-
tary spokesman said Friday.
The vast land reclamation project on the
Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands is one
of several pursued by China but the first that
could accommodate an airstrip, Lieutenant
Colonel Jeffrey Pool said.
“It appears that’s what they’re working to-
ward,” Pool told AFP.
A harbor also has been dug out on the east
side of the reef that appears large enough for
tankers and naval warships.
The United States wants China to halt the
project and for other governments to cease
similar efforts.
“We urgeChina to stop its land reclamation
program, andengage indiplomatic initiatives
to encourage all sides to restrain themselves
in these sorts of activities,” Pool said.
In the past three months, China has used
dredgers to construct an island about 3,000
yards (meters) long and 200-300 meters wide
on the reef, which was previously under wa-
ter, according to a report by IHS Jane’s De-
fence.
The results of the dredging are captured in
satellite pictures obtained by IHS Jane’s that
cover a period between August 8 and Novem-
ber 14.
“The land reclamation at Fiery Cross is the
fourth such project undertaken by China in
the Spratly Islands in the last 12-18 months
and by far the largest in scope,” the report
said.
Before the latest dredging work, the Chi-
nese navy had used a concrete platform and
no artificial island had been created.
China already has built islands at Johnson
South Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Gaven Reefs.
Beijing claims nearly all of the resource-rich
South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have
asserted their own claims by building struc-
tures on reefs or occupying islands.
The other Southeast Asian countries al-
ready had airfields in the area and China’s
latest efforts could put it in a stronger posi-
tion as Beijing pursues its claims.
IHS Jane’s said the move appeared aimed
to get other countries to relinquish their
claims, or provide China a stronger negoti-
ating position should talks take place over
the dispute.
The United States has urged China and
other states to settle the territorial dis-
putes peacefully and without coercion
while urging Beijing to support a regional,
multilateral maritime “code of conduct”
to defuse confrontations at sea.
But Beijing has tended to prefer bilater-
al talks with its smaller neighbors, which
are heavily dependent on Chinese trade.
China argues it has sovereign control
over almost all of the South China Sea,
a vital shipping route that is believed to
hold lucrative oil and gas deposits.
Beijing has launched naval patrols in
waters contested with the Philippines
and in May deployed a deep-sea oil rig
in disputed waters near the Paracel Is-
lands, sparking deadly anti-China riots
in Vietnam.
China building possible airfield in S. China Sea: US
China’s consumer price index (CPI)
was unchanged at a near five-year low
of 1.6 percent in October, while the pro-
ducer price index -- a measure of costs
for goods at the factory gate -- declined
for the 32nd straight month.
Concerns over growth
The decision to cut rates came a day
after a closely-watched private survey
showed that manufacturing activity in
China stagnated in November, touching
a six-month low.
British banking giant HSBC said
Thursday that its preliminary purchas-
ing managers’ index reading came in at
the 50.0 breakeven point.
It was lower than October’s 50.4 and
was the weakest since May’s 49.4, ac-
cording to the bank’s data. A reading
above 50 indicates expansion in the sec-
tor, while a reading below 50 indicates
contraction. Hu Xingdou, an economist
at the Beijing Institute of Technology,
told AFP that the cuts are a positive in
that they “could increase liquidity and
encourage economic growth” by benefit-
ting corporations.
Mark Williams, chief Asia econo-
mist for Capital Economics, said that
the main beneficiaries of the lending
rate cut would be large, state-owned
enterprises that take out bank loans,
but added that it is unlikely to have a
significant effect on economic growth.
“The financing costs of smaller firms,
which borrow from the shadow banking
sector, will not be affected,” he said in
a note. Shadow banking refers to a vast
network of lending outside formal chan-
nels and beyond the reach of regulators,
including activities by online finance
platforms, credit guarantee companies
and micro-credit firms.
American President Barak Obama (AFP)
A woman sells dumplings in a street market in Beijing. Some analysts have also
expressed concern about the overall health of the country’s financial system (AFP)
- Indonesian President JokoWidodo (C) and First Lady Iriana (R) attend the high
school graduation ceremony of their youngest son Kaesang Pangarep at the
Anglo-Chinese International School in Singapore on November 21, 2014 (AFP)
Shiite opposition boycotts as
Bahrain goes to polls
Manama, Bahrain (AFP)-
Bahrain-
is went to the polls Saturday for the first
legislative elections since a 2011 upris-
ing, but the vote is being boycotted by
the Shiite opposition that led Gulf king-
dom’s pro-democracy movement.
The electorate of almost 350,000 is be-
ing called to choose 40 deputies, with
Sunnis making up most of the 266 can-
didates.
The polls are being contested without
a compromise in sight between authori-
ties in the Sunni-ruled monarchy and
the opposition.
Al-Wefaq, the main opposition group,
has dismissed the electoral process as a
“farce” and warned that failure by the
kingdom’s rulers to loosen their grip
on power could trigger a surge in vio-
lence.
The opposition’s month-long uprising
in early 2011 was crushed by the author-
ities. The political rivals have struggled
to bury their differences through a
so-called “national dialogue” that fell
apart despite several rounds of negotia-
tions.
Forty films nominated for
Golden Horse film awards
Taipei, Taiwan (AFP )-
Chinese-
language cinema A-listers and stars
from Japan and Hollywood gathered
in Taiwan on Saturday for this year’s
Golden Horse Film Awards, with mov-
ies from mainland China dominating
the nominations.
Touted as the Chinese-language
equivalent to the Oscars, the ceremony
will see Chinese star Gong Li, Holly-
wood actress Lily Collins and Japanese
actor Masatoshi Nagase among the fa-
mous names on the red carpet ahead
of a glamorous ceremony in the capital
Taipei. The mainland is traditionally a
strong contender at the awards, but has
faced increasing competition from Tai-
wan and Hong Kong in recent years.
This time Chinese cop thriller “Black
Coal, Thin Ice” leads the pack.
Directed by China’s Diao Yinan it has
eight nods and already took the Golden
Bear award for best film in Berlin in
February.
The film tells the story of a washed-
up ex-cop investigating a series of gris-
ly murders and is nominated for best
film, best director, best leading actor
and best leading actress.
Ukraine declares
NATO ambition on
protests anniversary
Kiev, Ukraine (AFP)-
Ukraine’s
new coalition government declared
joining NATO a priority Friday in a
move likely to provoke fresh Russian
anger as thousands gathered in Kiev to
mark the first anniversary of protests
which unleashed a year of turmoil.
A crowd of several thousand gath-
ered in Kiev’s Independence Square,
known as Maidan, late Friday to re-
member the more than 100 protestors
who died in demonstrations that start-
ed on November 21 last year.
Many mourners were draped in
Ukrainian flags, while some cried and
laid flowers in memory of the dead.
On a hectic day of politicking,
Ukraine’s leaders announced a new
coalition following October elections
which affirmed that joining the NATO
military alliance would be a priority.
It agreed to pass a law by the end of
the year confirming this intention.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (AFP)
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