The global arms trade business continues to thrive, with the United States being the biggest beneficiary of an ever-growing market that’s being fueled by Middle East purchases.
IHS Inc., an international information and analytics firm based in Colorado, reported in its Global Defense Trade Report that worldwide arms sales increased last year for the sixth straight year. The total in military trade went from $56.8 billion in 2013 to $64.4 billion in 2014—a 13.4% increase.
The U.S. was responsible for one-third of all defense exports and “was the main beneficiary of growth,” IHS reported. American exports of weapons were particularly popular among buyers in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia surpassed India to become the largest defense market for U.S. weapons makers, as the oil sheikdom increased its defense imports 54% from 2013 to 2014. This year is expected to be another strong year for Saudi imports, IHS says, rising another 52% to $9.8 billion.
“One out of every seven dollars spent on defense imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia,” according to IHS.
Ben Moores, senior defense analyst at IHS Aerospace, Defense & Security, said: “The Middle East is the biggest regional market, and there are $110 billion in opportunities in coming decade.”
To Learn More:
Charted: The World’s Biggest Arms Importers (by Alan Tovey, The Telegraph )
The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Services Companies, 2013 (by Aude Fleurant and Sam Perlo-freeman, SIPRI) (pdf)
Obama Steps Up Foreign Weapons Sales, Overwhelming Other Arms Makers (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov )
It was another difficult week for Israel.
In Britain, 700 artists, including many household names, pledged a cultural boycott of Israel, and a leader of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of UK Jews, quit, saying he could no longer abide by its ban on criticising Israel.
Across the Atlantic, the student body of one of the most prestigious US universities, Stanford, voted to withdraw investments from companies implicated in Israel’s occupation, giving a significant boost to the growing international boycott (BDS) movement.
Meanwhile, a CNN poll found that two-thirds of Americans, and three-quarters of those under 50, believed the US foreign policy should be neutral between Israel and Palestine.
This drip-drip of bad news, as American and European popular opinion shifts against Israel, is gradually changing the west’s political culture and forcing Israel to rethink its historic alliances.
The deterioration in relations between Israel and the White House is now impossible to dismiss, as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama lock horns, this time over negotiations with Iran.
The US was reported last week to be refusing to share with Israel sensitive information on the talks, fearful it will be misused. A senior Israeli official described it as like being evicted from the “deluxe guest suite” in Washington. “Astonishing doesn’t begin to describe it,” he said.
The fall-out is spreading to the US Congress, where for the first time Israel is becoming a partisan issue. A growing number of Democrats have declared they will boycott Netanyahu’s address to the Congress next month, when he is expected to try to undermine the Iran talks.
Things are more precarious still in Europe. Several leading parliaments have called on their governments to recognise Palestinian statehood, and France rocked Israel by backing just such a resolution recently in the UN Security Council.
Europe has also begun punishing Israel for its intransigence towards the Palestinians. It is labelling settlement products and is expected to start demanding compensation for its projects in the occupied territories the Israeli army destroys.
This month 63 members of the European Parliament went further, urging the European Union to suspend its “association agreement”, which allows Israel unrestricted trade and access to special funding.
None of this has gone unnoticed in Israel. A classified report by the foreign ministry leaked last month paints a dark future. It concludes that western support for the Palestinians will increase, the threat of European sanctions will grow, and the US might even refuse to “protect Israel with its veto” at the UN.
Israel is particularly concerned about the economic impact, given that Europe is its largest trading partner. Serious sanctions could ravage the economy.
One might assume that, faced with these drastic calculations, Israel would reconsider its obstructive approach to peace negotiations and Palestinian statehood. Not a bit of it.
Netanyahu’s officials blame the crisis with Washington on Obama, implying that they will wait out his presidency for better times to return.
As for Europe, Netanyahu blames the shift there on what he calls “Islamisation”, suggesting that Europe’s growing Muslim population is holding the region’s politicians to ransom. On this view, the price paid for the recent terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen is Europe’s support for Israel.
Instead, Netanyahu has begun looking elsewhere for economic – and ultimately political – patrons.
In doing so, he is returning to an early Israeli tradition. The state’s founders were inspired by the collectivist ideals of the Soviet Union, not US individualism. And in return for attacking Egypt in 1956, Israel was secretly helped by Britain and France to build nuclear weapons over stiff US opposition.
In response to recent developments, Netanyahu announced last month that he was courting trade with China, India and Japan – comprising nearly 40 per cent of the planet’s population.
Last year, for the first time, Israel did more trade with these Asian giants than with the US. Much of it focused on the burgeoning arms market, with Israel supplying nearly $4 billion worth of weapons in 2013. A region once implacably hostile to Israel is throwing open its doors.
India, plagued by border tensions with Pakistan and China, is now Israel’s largest arms purchaser – and such trade is expected to expand further following the election last year of Narendra Modi, known for his anti-Muslim views.
He has lifted the veil off India’s growing defence cooperation with Israel, one reason why Moshe Yaalon last week became the first Israeli defence minister to make an official visit.
Ties between Israel and China are deepening rapidly too. Beijing has become Israel’s third largest trading partner, while Israel is China’s second biggest supplier of military technology after Russia.
Last month the two signed a three-year cooperation plan, with China keen to exploit – in addition to Israel’s military hardware – its innovations on solar energy, irrigation and desalination.
Emmanuel Navon, an international relations expert at Tel Aviv University, claims that, despite its poor public image, Israel now enjoys a “global clout” unprecedented in its history.
Israel’s immediate goal is to future-proof itself economically against mounting popular pressure in Europe and the US to act in favour of the Palestinian cause.
But, longer term, Israel hopes to convert Chinese and Indian dependency on Israeli armaments – based on technology it tests and refines on a captive Palestinian population – into diplomatic cover. One day Israel may be relying on a Chinese veto at the UN, not a US one.
India reportedly plans to finalize a major arms deal with the Israeli regime worth nearly USD1.5 billion that includes Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and four aerostat radars.
The military deal will likely be sealed during a visit to India by Israeli minister for military affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, who is due in the city of Bangalore on Wednesday for the Aero India show, which will continue through February 22.
The Israeli official, who is due to hold talks with India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, will be accompanied by major Israeli military contractors.
The bi-annual Aero India exhibit is India’s biggest showcase of military equipment.
“We are flexible when it comes to transfer of technology,” said the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, Ohad Horsandi, who added, “A while back, Israel and India had shifted away from buyer-seller relations toward a stronger and more equal partnership that can include joint production and co-development.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reportedly seeking to enhance its military and security ties with the Washington and Tel Aviv in a bid to overhaul a largely Soviet-era arsenal and turn India into a global manufacturing hub.
India plans a USD 150-billion military spending spree through 2027. Pending purchases include 126 Rafale fighter jets from the France-based Dassault company and 145 howitzer guns from the UK-based firm, BAE Systems Plc.
During a visit to India last month, US President Barack Obama agreed to a pilot project in which India will jointly manufacture parts for drones and transport jets. The two countries will also set up a working group to share aircraft carrier technology and develop jet engines.
India last year decided to buy Israeli anti-tank guided missiles and launchers and revive the joint development of a long-range missile. The USD 659 million of Israeli arms purchases since Modi took power is more than Israeli regime’s total military exports to India in the prior three years.
Welcome to Kashmir, the land known for its flowers, mountains and pristine lakes!
Welcome to the land of watchtowers and barbed wire, of military convoys, of torture and rape! Welcome to the place where India, the U.S. and Israel are continuously conducting their joint military exercises, while plotting in unison, the best strategy of how to oppress and “pacify” the local population.
Welcome to the land of 7,000 mass graves!
Welcome to a land of torture and extra-judicial executions, where at least 80,000 people have already died, most of them in just the last two decades.
Welcome to that exhausted land, where at least 8,000 people have been “disappeared” without a trace, where the entire female population of some border villages have been raped, where torture perpetrated by Indian security forces has reached an unimaginable level of brutality.
Maybe you have never heard about the crimes against humanity committed by the Indian forces in Kashmir or in the Northeast, and it is not surprising if you haven’t. Because India is like Indonesia, like Rwanda, Uganda or Ukraine — it is now a staunch ally of the West; virtually its client state. As a reward to the Indian rulers and elites, there is almost no criticism coming from the Western mainstream media. And all the Indian mass media now belongs to the right-wing business conglomerates, so there is no criticism coming from there, either!
What takes place in Kashmir is called genocide — by some, by many. But their voices are barely audible. Their voices are muffled, even silenced, by the Western and Indian regimes.
“By inviting President Obama to New Delhi, India betrayed BRICS, politically, economically and militarily,” explained Mr. Binu Matthew, editor of an influential alternative Indian web-based magazine Countercurrents, which operates from the southern state of Kerala (www.countercurrents.org).
For years, I actually tried to define India’s position in BRICS. My conclusion is increasingly straightforward: it does not belong there at all! Its social, economic, political and military stands are anti-BRICS, pro-business and pro-Western.
While Obama was visiting India in January 2015, I was actually working in Kashmir. In fact, exactly at the time when his Air Force One was touching down near New Delhi, I was supposed to be transiting at Indira Gandhi International Airport, en route from Kerala to Srinagar, Kashmir.
The madness of the Indian security apparatus in action has turned into something indescribable! Two maniacal countries — India and the United States, have joined their hands, as well as their paranoia.
My Air India flight had to circle in the air for an extra hour, before being allowed to land. And several days later, long after Obama departed, when I checked into the same hotel where the U.S. President had been staying (ITC Maurya), the place was still overflowing with those brave and beefed-up U.S. security apparatchiks and their confused Indian lackeys.
I was told that at its peak, there were approximately 1,600 members of the U.S. security, operating in the India’s capital. They brought everything with them, from surveillance equipment, to oxygen bombs, in order to “fight” the legendary New Delhi pollution and supply their Commander-in-Chief with clean, breathable air.
The Metro system was shut down, and snipers, both from local and foreign security forces occupied most of the high-rise buildings in the center.
In India, even without Obama’s visit, surveillance and “security” has become a national obsession. Outrageous “security” measures here are always justified by “terrorism” and by all other “threats” (most of them fabricated). The main reason why they exist is very simple: they serve the elites who are protecting themselves against the great majority of their own miserably poor, cheated and underprivileged citizens.
Obama got from his Indian sojourn exactly what he hoped for: both countries (or more precisely, their elites) are now moving closer and closer towards each other, both militarily (India is readily offering itself to the U.S. geo-political interests, particularly to the most important one, which is to ostracize, demonize and provoke China) and economically by maintaining a despotic market fundamentalist system, which is for the exclusive benefit of the upper classes, corporations and moneyed mobsters.
The mechanism is simple: India, which is actually a police state, oppresses the majority of its citizens on behalf of the Empire and its business interests. And in exchange it gets promoted as “the largest democracy on Earth.”
Its big boys are now finally getting what they have dreamt about ever since the collapse of the British Empire: acceptance to the exclusive Western imperialist club. When they were in charge there, the Brits put up warnings all over Sub-Continent: “No Indians and Dogs!” Such sleights are now conveniently forgotten. Everything Western is glorified.
“Let’s walk together!” declared Obama during his visit. He forgot to mention, where?
Now imagine what a police state based on thoroughly cynical principles and deceptions is capable of doing to an occupied territory, like Kashmir!
Parvez Imroz, the Director of “Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,” explained to me during our meetings on the outskirts of Srinagar, in Kashmir:
“India, being a growing regional power, with an increasingly free market open to the United States and other such states, has been emboldened by foreign powers.
The army since 1989 has resorted to war crimes as they have been given legal impunity, and seldom have any armed personnel been punished for crimes against humanity. The militarization in Jammu and Kashmir has affected all aspects of life and unfortunately the Indian media and civil society, with some exceptions, have also been extending the moral and political impunity to the army who they believe are fighting trans-border terrorism. The systematic disappearances, mass graves, and torture have been completely ignored by the Indian and international media.”
In New Delhi, I discussed the joint exercises of Indian, US and Israeli military forces, with a renowned independent documentary film-maker, Sanjay Kak. He concluded:
“When it comes to brutality, Indian forces could actually teach both Israel and United States quite a few things.”
It is easy to confirm it.
For several days, I worked in Kashmir, with two members of “Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society,” but also with reporters employed by large Western press agencies, as well as with prominent lawyers from New Delhi. The journalists and attorneys asked not to be identified in this report, for reasons of safety and fear of losing their jobs. But they readily shared their knowledge and contacts.
I visited the border region with Pakistan, near the city of Kupwara. I also worked in the city of Sopore, known for its resistance against what the majority of local people calls, “the occupation of Kasmire.” I worked in Srinagar and its vicinity, and in several other places. It is obvious that Kashmir is brutalized, and the loss of lives here is so high that it could easily qualify as genocide.
The torture of civilians accused of supporting the “Mujahedin,” is comparable only with other examples of the most outrageous atrocities, committed in the 20th century. There seems to be no justice for the victims.
I spoke to local people from the villages of Kunan and Poshpora, where more than 2 decades ago, the Indian military arrested all men, took them to a frozen creek and tortured them, then raped all the women in their houses, killing five, including a four-day old baby. This case is well documented, and the victims pressed charges, but no one had been punished as of yet.
I spoke to a man in Sopore, Hassan Bhat, who lost both of his sons. They were murdered at the age of 15. One was shot by a cop while he was buying a carton of milk at local grocery store, and the other, shot with a teargas canister when he was trying to hide in the river, scared of a confrontation between local youth and armed forces. No justice; no one had been punished, although Mr. Bhat knows the names of the officers who were in charge.
I was shown several photos, and the case of a man who was detained after being accused of sympathizing with the “Mujahedeen,” was explained to me. When he was not “too cooperative,” both his feet were cut off. He survived. Later, pieces of flesh were cut off from various parts of his body, cooked, and force-fed to him. He survived again. For years he has been pressing charges, but no one has been punished.
The methods of torture used in Kashmir includes driving nails into victim’s feet, amputations, electric shocks, burning of genitals and other parts of the body, and the removal of nails. Rape is a common form of torture.
All this is documented. Nothing is done.
Even in India itself, I spoke to several people who are aware of the situation.
Just today, in Darjeeling, West Bengal, my colleague explained:
“My friend’s brother confessed that when he recently served in Kashmir, he was in a special Gorkha unit, well known and hated for its brutality. A Mujahedeen fighter, in one of deep villages, killed one of their men. The soldiers did not inform their commander: they just went on the rampage, ‘killing literally everything that moved, from women and children, to dogs, cats and chickens’. None of them were punished. They were discharged without honors. No one was punished.”
Mr. Parvez Imroz concluded:
“In order to suppress the struggle for freedom in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian government has resorted to systematic and institutional repression. More than 700,000-strong, armed force has been pressed into service to neutralize the armed struggle and to control the people of Jammu and Kashmir who are seeking the right of self-determination which the government of India had promised before the United Nations in the 1948 and 1949 resolutions. The repression of the Indian state has been part of their policy. In this lie, even the judiciary is culpable, they as a wing of the State, have served the interests of the executive and not the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The international institutions, particularly western civil society and governments after 9/11 and because of Islamophobia and other interests, are completely ignoring the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Arundhati Roy, a famous Indian writer and activist, came to a similar conclusion two years earlier when she spoke on “Democracy Now”:
“Today Kashmir is the most densely militarized zone in the world. India has something like 700,000 security forces there. And in the ’90s, early ’90s, the fight became — turned into an armed struggle, and since then, More than 70,000 people have died, maybe 100,000 tortured, more than 8,000 disappeared. I mean, we all talk a lot about Chile, Pinochet, but these numbers are far greater.”
Locals often compare Kashmir to Palestine, to the Intifada there, but they never fail to point out that their land is suffering a much worse fate, as many more people have died here, and under much more horrible circumstance. Kashmir is far from the cameras, and far from international scrutiny.
I met stone-throwing youth in Kashmir. I stood between them and the security forces. I managed to photograph the encounter. The intensity here was the same as I had witnessed in Palestine. But in Srinagar, I was alone. I was told: “Foreigners do not dare to come. The Indian media does not care and if it did come, perhaps it would have to face the wrath of the locals. And the local media is scared: whenever they come, they get beaten up by the security forces.”
Not long ago, a Mexican journalist dared, and was badly beaten by Indian police. When his case became known, the police apologized: “Sorry, he looked like a local. We thought he was a Kashmiri.”
People, who dare to speak and write about the plight of Kashmir, are intimidated, deported, and even physically attacked. Some of the critics are ordinary individuals, while others are well-known figures:
Arundhati Roy is periodically threatened with sedition charges, lawsuits and life imprisonment.
Others, like the legendary radio host David Barsamian, got deported from India, no explanation was given.
In October 2011, a senior Supreme Court lawyer Mr. Prashant Bhushan (who drafted the “Lokpal Bill”) was brutally beaten in his chambers at the Supreme Court after he made comments on the human rights situation in Kashmir.
In Sopore, several people formed a circle around me, after dark, in front of a house that recently saw fighting between pro-independence fighters and the security forces.
“What would save Kashmir?” I asked.
A heroic but desperate battle, of 200 to 300 pro-independence fighters struggling against 700,000 members of the security forces, was not looking too promising.
“Only pressure from the international community can help,” I was told.
“BRICS,” I thought. The West was too busy admiring Indian oligarchs, the military top brass, and politicians who had recently just been considered to be responsible for some heinous crimes against humanity, including those committed in 2002 in the state of Gujarat!
Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man Party), has taken the oath as the chief minister of India’s capital city of New Delhi.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on Saturday in front of thousands of supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party, which won 67 out of the 70 seats in the February 7 elections of the city’s state assembly.
During the open-air ceremony, Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s associate, was also sworn in as deputy chief minister along with five other ministers.
In an address to the crowd, Kejriwal vowed to tackle graft in Delhi and end its “VIP culture”.
“I will make Delhi corruption-free within five years. If somebody asks for a bribe, don’t say no. Just take your mobile out of your pocket and record it on your phone. You then come and give it to me. We will take the toughest action against the offenders,” he said.
In 2013, the 46-year-old former civil servant was also sworn in as Delhi’s chief minister, but he resigned after 49 days in a row over an anti-corruption bill.
An estimated 67-percent turnout was recorded at Delhi’s 70-seat legislative assembly elections, which was widely considered as a test of the popularity of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came second in the polls with only three seats.
In May 2014, the BJP won 274 seats in the 543-seat lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. However, the ruling party lacks a majority in the Asian country’s upper house.
The Indian premier needs to win most of the state elections over the next four years in order to gain control of both houses of parliament, where he is attempting to push through reforms to revive the country’s economy.
AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal with supporters on February 10, 2015 [PTI]
Indian anti-graft party Aam Admi (Common Man) is set for a massive landslide victory in the Assembly elections of the national capital. Arvind Kejriwal, who was briefly chief minister of Delhi last year, is leading his Aam Admi party to a majority win as early leads show they are ahead in 63 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s defeat in Delhi would be the first major setback for the party since winning power. Latest results show Modi’s party is ahead in six seats.
“This may be a historic day! The juggernaut likely to halt. David likely to overcome Goliath,” tweeted AAP member and senior leader Yogendra Yadav on Tuesday morning.
The Congress party, which was in power in the Delhi for 15 years until 2013, is trailing at the third spot.
Millions of residents in India’s capital queued up on Saturday to cast their votes in the city polls that were expected to provide an indication of how Indians perceive the work of the new government and the “pro-reform” Indian Prime Minister Modi.
In recent weeks, an army of AAP volunteers has trudged through the alleys of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods to try to tap a deep vein of dissatisfaction that has gripped New Delhi residents, particularly over a soaring cost of living.
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is likely to be sworn in as Chief Minister of Delhi on 14 February.
“US, India Move Forward on Nuclear Energy Deal” read the headline at the top of USA Today’s front page (1/26/15). Moving forward–that sounds good, doesn’t it? The subhead was “Obama makes progress on the 1st day of his 3-day visit”–making progress also generally being seen as a good thing.
Online, the headline was “Obama, India’s Modi Cite Nuclear Investment Breakthrough” (1/25/15). And who doesn’t like a “breakthrough”?
The article itself had the same positive spin, beginning with its lead:
President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday they reached “a breakthrough understanding” in freeing up US investment in nuclear energy development in India, as Obama began a three-day visit to India.
Not only is it a “breakthrough understanding,” it’s also going to be “freeing up” investment. In these word choices, USA Today is saying it wants you to know that this is good news.
But what is the news? Here’s how the paper’s Mandakini Gahlot summarizes the agreement:
Picking up from a stalled 2008 civil nuclear agreement between the two countries, the deal would allow US firms to invest in energy in India. It also resolves a dispute over US insistence on tracking fissile material it supplies to the country and over Indian liability provisions that have discouraged US firms from capitalizing on the agreement.
“Indian liability provisions”–what does that mean? The only further explanation USA Today gives is a paraphrase of the White House view that the agreement “resolves the US concerns on both tracking and liability.” In other words, it doesn’t explain much.
You get a much fuller picture from a story in the Mumbai-based newspaper Indian Express (1/26/15), which explains that the problem is with Indian law:
India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, has a simple purpose: to make sure that victims of a nuclear accident can get quick compensation, without having to prove the plant operator was negligent, and irrespective of who was at fault…. Section 17b of CLiNDA says the plant operators…can claim compensation from their equipment suppliers if the accident resulted as a result of “equipment or material with patent or latent defects.” And Section 46 makes both suppliers and operators liable to be sued by accident victims.
This is in conflict with the international rules that the US nuclear industry has arranged for itself when marketing its products abroad:
In the US, the law allows victims to file damages claims against operators, suppliers and designers. However, when US firms started selling abroad, they pushed for the concept of legal channeling, which left only operators liable.
These corporations–who have the political backing of the US government–have succeeded in getting international conventions to agree that “no one other than operators can be held responsible” in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. The suppliers want assurances that these international conventions, and not Indian law, will be applied in the wake of such an event.
The “breakthrough” between Obama and Modi seems to be an agreement that the law will be “tweaked” to let US corporations off the hook in case of a devastating accident. For example, suppliers of nuclear equipment could be redefined as “contractors” and therefore not be liable under Indian law.
Of course, if USA Today explained that Obama had gotten the Indian prime minister to find a loophole that would allow US corporations to avoid having to compensate victims of nuclear disasters that they contributed to, that would be harder to present as a “good news!” story.
In a setback to efforts to provide affordable healthcare to some of India’s poorest people, the Indian government has decided to cut 20 per cent of its health budget.
More than 60 billion rupees ($948 million) has been slashed from their budgetary allocation for the year ending 31 March 2015, said officials from the Indian Ministry of Health on Tuesday. The move could severely tax government-run hospitals and clinics that are invariably over-stretched and under-resourced.
Apart from being lowest among BRICS, India’s health expenditure is lower than military expenditure. India spends about 1.3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health while it spends 2.4 per cent on military defense. In contrast, India’s BRICS partner South Africa spent more than 8.5 per cent of GDP on healthcare in 2012.
The Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is struggling to achieve the 2014/15 fiscal deficit target of 4.1 per cent of GDP.
A Reuters report quoted unnamed Indian Health Ministry officials as saying the Finance Ministry has also ordered a spending cut for India’s HIV/AIDS programme by about 30 per cent to 13 billion rupees ($205.4 million).
According to a 2011 study in the medical publication Lancet, 39 million Indians are pushed into poverty every year due to medical costs.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring Chinese government has poured billions of pounds into healthcare reform in recent years, and the system has improved accordingly. Currently, 99 per cent of the rural population gets some kind of insurance, up from 21 per cent a decade ago. China plans to roll out universal coverage by 2020.
India fares poorly in socio-economic indicators, writes development economist, Professor Reeitka Khera.
“India’s use of its meagre public resources is also a cause for concern. Public services tend to have the first claim on public revenues in other countries. With close of half of Indian children being undernourished, one-third being illiterate it is not clear how the ruling class obsessed with “superpower” status hopes to achieve it. The refusal to invest in its main economic “resource” – her own people – will ultimately prove counterproductive for the ruling class as well as ordinary people,” says Khera.
Indian opposition lawmakers have demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarify his position on the alleged ongoing forced conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.
Enraged lawmakers in the Indian parliament’s upper house on Monday demanded that Premier Modi address reports that groups linked to his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coerced poor Muslims and Christians into converting to the Hindu religion.
The opposition lawmakers pointed out that Modi’s silence was damaging the religious freedom guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
Political experts say the issue is stoking a sensitive debate that has stalled the parliament and threatened the prime minister’s economic reform agenda.
The developments came after right-wing Hindu groups allied to the ruling BJP held a series of ceremonies to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.
The groups have allegedly bribed some 50 poor Muslim families into converting to Hinduism in the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra. Converts say the families were promised financial incentives and ration cards if they went ahead with the conversions.
The Muslims have been wary of Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP Party, which won a huge majority in general elections in May. Back then, the BJP won 274 seats in the 543-seat lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.
However, the BJP lacks a majority in the upper house, where Congress and regional lawmakers routinely protest a range of issues.
Churchill is seen as the British icon of endurance and strength through gloomy war. His drowning voice of “we shall fight on the beaches” is easily identifiable with World War II. And he was a complete drunk.
But what do common folks now-a-days know of this man? Do you know much about Dear ol’ Churchill? Let’s find out.
In December of 1910, while young Churchill was Home Secretary, he wrote: “The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate. I am convinced that the multiplication of the Feeble-Minded, which is proceeding now at an artificial rate, unchecked by any of the old restraints of nature, and actually fostered by civilised conditions, is a terrible danger to the race.” Churchill was all-for forcing “feeble-minded” people to labour colonies. January 19, 1899, Churchill wrote in a letter to his cousin: “The improvement of the British breed is my aim of life.” 
Wait a minute, he was in favor of eugenics? This sounds really familiar to someone else in history, I just can’t remember his name. Anyway, moving on.
As a young MP, it was well-known he believed that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph.” — Okay, wait! He sounds just like that guy with the funny mustache! Whoa!
“When concentration camps were built in South Africa, for white Boers, he [Churchill] said they produced “the minimum of suffering”. The death toll was almost 28,000, and when at least 115,000 black Africans were likewise swept into British camps, where 14,000 died, he wrote only of his ‘irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men.’”
“As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed the notorious Black and Tan thugs on Ireland’s Catholic civilians, and when the Kurds rebelled against British rule, he said: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes… [It] would spread a lively terror.” 
And after Ghandi’s movement of peace was taking hold in the then British colony of India, Churchill was noted to have said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” Churchill’s gross demeanor towards others not of his skin did not cease while the Bengali famine occurred (which led to the death of nearly 3 million souls). He remarked the famine was not Britain’s fault, but it was “their” fault—because they “breed like rabbits.” He was talking about the Indians, of course. Amartya Sen, an economist who won the Nobel Prize in 1998, proved for a fact that the famine was due to the imperialist structure of the British Empire. 
In conclusion: make your own conclusion.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday announced China will contribute $40 billion to set up a Silk Road Fund to strengthen connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
Xi said the goal of the Fund is to “break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity by building a financing platform.”
The new Silk Road Fund will be used to provide investment and finance for infrastructure, industrial projects along the “Belt and Road”, Xi said, referring to China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives.
He added that the fund will be “open” to investors from both within and outside Asia.
The Asian Development Bank has estimated that in the next decade Asian countries will need $8 trillion in infrastructure investments to maintain the current economic growth rate.
“The Silk Road boasts a 3-billion population and a market that is unparalleled both in scale and potential,” Xi said in September last year.
The Silk Road connected China and Europe from around 100 B.C.
The 4,000-mile road linked ancient Chinese, Indian, Babylonian, Arabic, Greek and Roman civilizations.
A new map unveiled by Xinhua shows the Chinese plans for the Silk Road run through Central China to the northern Xinjiang from where it travels through Central Asia entering Kazakhstan and onto Iraq, Iran, Syria and then Istanbul in Turkey from where it runs across Europe cutting across Germany, Netherlands and Italy.
The maritime Silk Road begins in China’s Fujian and ends at Venice, Italy.
In a landmark achievement, 21 Asian nations including China and India last month signed on a new infrastructure investment bank which would rival the World Bank.
One of the first projects of the new Bank is expected to be financing infrastructure projects along the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “Maritime Silk Road” re-establishment.
Meanwhile on Saturday in Beijing, the Chinese President stressed that efforts should be made to realize Asia’s connectivity by making Asian countries a priority.
“Asian countries are just like a cluster of bright lanterns. Only when we link them together, can we light up the night sky in our continent,” he said.
China will provide neighboring countries 20,000 training opportunities for connectivity professionals in the coming five years.
Experts say these new announcements will boost China’s global influence and enhance its soft power.
Apart from the AIIB, the BRICS new $100 billion Development Bank is also being headquartered in China.
“China has considerable experience in infrastructure planning and construction, and financing projects outside the country. As Finance Minister Lou Jiwei has said, China Development Bank’s commercial infrastructure loan is now far bigger than that of the World Bank and ADB combined. And surprisingly, this process started only 20 years ago,” write Asit Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, China scholars at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.
TBP and Agencies